• Have a terrific new year!

    I’ve been locked out of my blog for months but now I’m in I’d like to wish all fans of Hildegard a very happy and medieval new year.

    Hildegard and the Abbot are on their way home to Meaux.  At Netley he made her a life-changing proposition but what will her answer be?  The two militant monks, Gregory and Egbert accompany them on the long sea journey over the pirate-infested German Ocean – as the North Sea was called – and who knows what dangers await?

    Hubert fears that his abbey will have been wrecked during his absence.  Hildegard fears that her answer may not be the one he wants.

    Meanwhile what is happening to King Richard?  After the cruel fate of his allies during the Merciless Parliament will he survive the hatred of the avaricious and relentless enemies of the Crown or will they finally destroy him?

    I’m about to start chapter one to find out what will happen next so remember to keep an eye out for news about Murder at Meaux.


  • Toxophilia

    Had a fabulous day at INSIGHT ACTIVITIES NEW FOREST yesterday as I thought I ought to get some hands-on experience of what it’s like to shoot at things with arrows –  ready for Hildegard’s book 9 in the series.

    Wow!  I admire Ulf even more now.  After loosing a load of arrows I managed to get a couple in the gold – but the target was pretty close, I have to say, not the 80 yards or more a good bowman would smile at.

    The brilliant Josh Smith showed us what to do and didn’t mock once.  Thank you, Josh! It’s quite addictive and I imagine those young varlets ordered by King Edward III to get themselves to the butts every Sunday would need no urging.    I’m looking for an archery club now – but please, no jokes about Maid Marian!

    If you want to see what it looked like take a glance at my twitter link @nunsleuth for some pix.


  • IT’S LIVE!

    Alch_A6_flyer-1Now I know it’s live!  Even before I found out for myself I heard from one of my lovely readers in the U.S. that they’ve just bought an ebook of The Alchemist of Netley Abbey.  This must be the first in the entire world!  Thank you, darling Barbara, you know who you are!

    I’m going to try to get a picture of the cover for this page.  Back soon….

    And here it is designed by the clever Phil Horton.

    It’s out on Kindle and Kobo and later in the summer will be launched as a paperback at the Netley Abbey Literary Festival.

  • Launch Day (soon)!

    It’s getting closer!  I mean the day when the ebook of The Alchemist of Netley Abbey comes out.  For some reason I’m finding this more exciting than the launch day of almost any of the other seven in Hildegard’s series.  It feels as if there’s something really special about this one.  It’s as if something extraordinary is about to happen!

    I’ve also been reluctant to clear away my notes this time.  I keep finding little stickies bearing snatches of dialogue which never made it to the final version – there was so much more I could have put in and I’ve cut such a lot.  For instance, I became really interested in alchemy.  In Christian Europe alchemists were nearly always men even though in the days of Ancient Greece women, such as the mathematician Hypatia, worked equally with men.  Why did the Christian fathers clamp down on women’s activities?  What were they afaid of?  It has taken centuries for us to shake off the bonds of poor education and social stigma.  I hope the generation of schoolgirls coming out into the world nowadays learn about our history as women and forge ahead in a way previous generations were unable to do.  How different would science be by now if women had taken an equal role?  What other lines of inquiry would have been followed?  Would there have been a difference?  Nobody can know, we can only speculate.

    It’s for these sort of reasons I get really sick of all the nonsense about witches. I know it’s a bit of a hobby-horse of mine but it was a hot political issue and surely deserves more than to be an occasion for fake shivers of horror.  At least in the late fourteenth century witch-burning was not an issue.  It simply didn’t happen.  Only later, in the schismatic period of the Tudor and Reformation wars of religion did it become a way of eliminating the enemies of orthodoxy.  How easy it was to get rid of women who ‘mouthed off ‘ by burning them at the stake as witches!  And dear old Wyclif died before they could get to him, although they did imagine it was a good idea to dig up his body and do nasty things to it.

    The reign of King Richard II was relatively civilised in a way we might understand today.  The first public burning of a heretic was not a women but a man – and it didn’t happen in Richard’s reign but later,  when his regicidal cousin Bolingbroke snatched the crown, making it one of the first acts by the king the French always referred to as ‘so-called Hery  IV.’  His unlucky victim was a man called William Sawtre and he was burned alive at Smithfield for refusing to accept the validity of orthodox religious belief.  You could say it was a bit rich,  coming from Bolingbroke/Henry, who himself murdered God’s anointed king.  How unorthodox was that!  Later, there were wholesale burnings of and by both Catholics and their opponents.  But by now we’re in the world of the barbaric Tudors.

    Such a lot has to be omitted in a novel.  It’s not a history book, after all.  I hope there’s enough about alchemy to make Hywel credible and to open the door to another aspect of that curious and exciting medieval world which (hobby-horse again) has been dropped from the National Curriculum.

    Next time I should have a date for the launch.  Watch this space!

  • The mysterious Netley Abbey

    The new book, THE ALCHEMIST OF NETLEY ABBEY, is about to be hurled out into the cruel world.  I hope readers treat it gently.  Hildegard, the abbot and his two militant monks have been forced by fate to seek shelter at Netley Abbey where a group of pilgrims are waiting for a ship to take them to France.  A Welsh alchemist attends Abbot de Courcy but is he to be trusted?  What did Abbot Philip at Netley mean when he said spies had infiltrated his demesne?  Just a short ride away King Richard’s bitterest enemy, the earl of Arundel, commands the Narrow Seas so what are three of his mercenaries doing at Netley?  Follow Hildegard on her 8th perilous mission as she tracks down a murderer within the abbey precinct.

    Will Hildegard and Hubert ever get it together?  Will they ever get home to Meaux?

    Find out in May when the ebook emerges and pick up a book later.

    Latest on twitter where you can follow Hildegard @nunsleuth


  • Finished!

    It’s been a long haul and I can’t imagine why I thought it would be feasible to write a blog at the same time as writing the actual novel.  Impossible!  Maybe some people can do it, but not this one.  All I can do is quote Stephen King again when he said ‘write with the door shut’ – and to write alongside a blog is to write with the doors wide open and a big sign saying, ‘come on in, folks.’  Not the way to do it.

    The characters followed their own path and Ranulph didn’t end up dead.  In fact he didn’t appear at all.  Others were a surprise. Mistress Sweet and Mistress Sour were unexpected.   Lissa and Simon too.  I’d been reading A Doll’s House when they appeared and after quite a few chapters I realised Delith had crept in under the guise of Norah!

    It’s amazing how characters seep in from elswhere and then become themselves because of the needs of the plot and the story they find themselves in.  Now the pilgrim ship has finally sailed I’m going to miss them.

    All done now. I hope readers will like them.  I’ve had some lovely encouragement recently – when somebody says they stayed up half the night because they wanted to know what heppened next, it makes it all worthwhile.  Thank you for all those lovely comments.  I’ll let you know when The Alchemist of Netley Abbey is ready for the road.


  • Another week…

    Yet another week has flown by.  Been writing The Alchemist at Netley Abbey (book 8) since January 9th.  It was a long gestation though.

    Hildegard and the boys are well settled into Netley Abbey but there’s a heat-wave, nobody is what they seem, tensions are running high and then the Hand of God comes down…Next morning Hildegard seems to be the only one to keep her cool.

    Must put all this into appropriate idiom.

    Am feeling quite tired but what happens next keeps me going.

    It’s also good to know there are people out there waiting to read this book.  Thanks, guys!

  • Day 14 or 15

    I can’t believe the time is going so quickly.  Another day at the screen.  Scenes coming thick and fast.  How I’ll hold them together is anybody’s guess.  Too many ideas.  Will they weld nicely or fall apart in my hands?  Only time and patience can answer that one.  Real life, as it’s called, is quickly acquiring the aura of fiction while fiction seems more real than the other stuff.

    Hildegard and the monks have all now arrived at Netley Abbey but what lies in wait…..?

  • Blogging and writing

    I admire those people who can keep a blog going and write a novel at the same time.  I’ve realised I can’t do it.  It’s got to be one or the other.  I’m still getting the ducks in a row but there’s always one that refuses to come down when called.

    Steven King advises:

    Write with the door closed.  Rewrite with the door open.

    Sound advice and I pass it on for your use if needed.

    He also said:  don’t seek praise from groups.  It only feeds your ego.  You’ve got to stand aside to let your novel grow.

    I can’t better this advice so I’m not feeling too guilty about leaving off for a while until I get a respectable number of words down.

    Remember the Saxon salaute in Hangman Blind ?  Ge be!

    Till next time.

    I think this is Day 9 by the way.  I’ll keep a tally out of interest.

  • How I write or how (not) to write a novel: Day Seven

    Counting the days like this is really keeping me up to the mark.   I couldn’t resist starting yesterday though.  It was what I call a mosaic-ing day.  Bits of dialogue and stray scenes beg to be written down as they appear, fleshing out (yes, that!) the characters and causing things to happen. It’s a sort of pointillist exercise, creating the scene and who’s there.  The alchemist has a name.  He’s Hywel.  His litle side-kick who may or may not live to see another day is Jankin, a gutter-kid with a lot of potential and no home.  He’s wary of Hywel but slowly coming to rely on him.  Hywel’s mind is on proto-science, alchemy, and he’ll give a lot to discover the answer to all his questions.  But how much will he give?   How far will he go?

    Hildegard is coming in tomorrow.  I’m really looking forward to getting her and the brothers back into the action.  When we left her at the end of The Scandal of the Skulls she, the abbot and his two militant monks were just leaving Salisbury to return north to the abbey of Meaux.  It’s summer.  They’re delighted to be going home.  We’ll have to be quick to keep them in sight as their horses are fresh from the stables and raring to go.