Susan here, researching a new medieval novel and looking through my bookshelves and files for research notes and books on falconry and hawking–I’m returning to those scribbled handwritten notes, books on falconry and some new books on the subject, putting together a plot spin. I love revisiting old research and adding new to it, wandering a bit to see where it goes–so I’ve been peregrinating through the falconry notes. The new book, part of my new Highland Secrets series, involves a white gyrfalcon, considered the most precious and valuable of birds in the Middle Ages, the privilege of kings to own and fly–but the Scottish hero finds a gyrfalcon, a royal bird, and decides not to return it, putting his very life at risk. The first book, The Scottish Bride, will be out in April. More about that soon! (photo – Ladyhawke, fabulous movie)

In renewing my research, I came across some photos taken several years ago when a friend and I flew hawks for a day, and when I visited a local falconer to meet his trained goshawk as part of my research. The photos brought back the feeling of what it’s like, even briefly, to fly hawks and be around birds of prey. The research filled out the story for The Hawk Laird (my newly revised edition of the original Laird of the Wind) and other medieval stories. Later the falconry research added detail and content to Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter and other  books.

Experiential research is a great way to add layers to the writing of a story–I’ve flown hawks, shot arrows (and caught them!), trained with swords and weapons, taken harp lessons and more. I love the chance to try for myself what I’m researching for characters and story, discovering details I might not learn otherwise. (Susan with a Harris’s Hawk)

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A Taste Of Marmalade!

Nicola here. I have a new timeslip novel coming out in a few weeks’ time, The Other Gwyn Girl. It tells the story of Rose Gwyn, the much less well-known sister of Nell Gwyn, actress, orange-seller and mistress to King Charles II. It’s also a fun co-incidence that this is the perfect time of year to make Seville orange marmalade, so this week I’ve been busy making some celebratory “Gwyn Girl” marmalade using my grandmother’s fabulous jam pan. I have to admit that I’s a bit of an irony but I am the only person in my family who doesn’t actually like marmalade! Everyone else is very keen and the Scots ancestors have a marvellous whisky version that is even more popular.

First, a bit of marmalade history, as I always like to research these things! The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese marmelada, which means “made of quince.” The first fruit preserves were made by the Greeks, who discovered that quinces cooked with honey would “set” when they were cool. Both the Greeks and the Romans made preserves out of quince with lemon, rose, apple, pear and plum. In 1524, King Henry VIII received a gift of a “box of marmalades” from a Mr Hull of Exeter. This was probably quince paste, as was the “marmalet” that was served at another Tudor wedding feast. It was said that “marmalado” as it became known, was a favourite with Anne Boleyn.

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Falling into Love

By Mary Jo

In honor of Valentine’s Week (the holiday isn’t over until the chocolate is all gone!) I thought I’d muse about some of the ways people fall in love in our stories  There are whole thoughtful, analytical books and articles written about romance tropes, but this is not one of them.  <G>

Romance can be as simple as seeing someone and thinking, Wow, my hormones have gone on high alert!  Can I introduce my hormones to your hormones?  Real life is often like this.  You meet an interesting person in a class or at church or on the jogging trail and start talking, and you continue talking for the next sixty years.  Romances often start when people meet and there’s a ZING!, but there needs to be more than that to make a good story. In particular, conflict is needed.

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Ask A Wench – Winter Blues Anyone?

woman in gown running through snowPat here: In today’s episode of Ask A Wench, Beth Reimer asks: Any ideas for fighting the winter blues? (Beth, you’ve won a free book! I’ll be in touch) It’s the middle of winter in the upper hemisphere, when the days seem darkest and coldest, and the wenches thought this would be a good time to throw in their suggestions!

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Happy New Lunar Year

Happy New Lunar Year. Welcome to the Year of the Dragon.
A few days ago, millions of people around the world celebrated the beginning of the Lunar New Year. To some it’s known as Chinese New Year,  in Vietnam Tet, and in Korea, Seollal. There are other names in other cultures and my apologies if I’ve missed yours out. I also apologize for generalizing about the traditions followed. In China, it’s also known as the Spring Festival, the name introduced in 1914 by the republican government. 

For those who celebrate it, the Lunar New Year is a fresh start. In the days leading up to it, houses are cleaned from top to bottom to make way for good luck to come. Windows and doors might be decorated with red paper cutouts and lucky tokens, red being regarded as a lucky color. New clothes are purchased to be worn in the new year and small red envelopes containing money will be given. (Photo by Maud Beauregard on Unsplash)

Celebrations traditionally start on the eve of the first new moon between the 21st January and 20th February, often with a big dinner with special foods, auspicious dishes and dumplings. It’s very much a family affair, where ancestors and the elderly members of the family are honored. In the days following, people will visit relatives and friends, often exchanging gifts.

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