Wondrous Memories

Camel2022 is hurtling into history, and given events, will no doubt make a huge splash in future history books. My life wasn’t quite so momentous as world events, but our trip to Israel and Egypt is definitely one for my books, both fictional and real. What are your year’s wondrous memories? Do you have plans for more in 2023?

Here’s to peace, love, and joy for all in the new year!

Atmosphere and Memory

Dragon hillNicola here, pulling up a Wench classic blog from a few years ago as I’m travelling at the moment, far from my laptop!

Today I’m musing about the atmosphere of particular places. I’m taking us back a long way in English history, beyond the Regency, beyond those ubiquitous Tudors, to a time before the Norman Conquest when England was split into the Anglo Saxon seven kingdoms. The village where I live has a recorded history that goes back to this distant time – there are actual documents from the era relating to events that happened in this very place over a thousand years ago and I find that mind-blowing. As I walk along the footpaths and over the hills I frequently imagine how it might have looked in that time and try to see all the way back through the mists of history to think myself back there.  I can be pretty successful at this; when it’s quiet and I’m standing on the Ravens’ Fort and all I can hear are the birds singing and I feel the breeze on my face I can persuade myself, for a split second anyway, that I have travelled in time. Then an aeroplane flies over and I think perhaps not after all.

Certain places have a very strong sense of atmosphere. I’ve been to battlefields such as Flodden and Culloden where the whole landscape feels as though it is steeped in the bloodshed and suffering of the men who died there. I’ve visited historic houses that feel imbued with the personalities of the people who lived there, and I’ve wandered happily through gardens that feel peaceful or visited buildings that have a joyous atmosphere. How much of this is down to the emotional memory of the place and how much is down to my imagination, I cannot say. As writers and readers of historical fiction I think we all step into that other world. One of my books looks at “stone tape theory” which was an idea popular in the 19th century and later in the 1970s that places retain emotional memories in their very fabric. This is one theory said to account for ghostly sightings. It’s an intriguing idea around which to build a timeslip novel.

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Interview on The Winter Garden!

The Winter Garden NA "Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot …”

Christina here and tomorrow is Guy Fawkes’ Day here in the UK so what better time to interview Wench Nicola about her new book THE WINTER GARDEN? It was published last week and is based on the infamous Gunpowder Plot that Mr Fawkes was involved with in 1605. He was part of a group of Catholics who had decided to kill the King by blowing up Parliament, but they were betrayed and ultimately their plot failed. I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this story and it is absolutely fabulous! I seriously couldn’t put it down – if you’d like to read my review you can find it here, but I’d recommend you read it for yourself!

Here’s a short summary:-

1605: Anne Catesby fears for her family. Her son, the charismatic Robert, is secretly plotting to kill the king, placing his family in grave danger. Anne must make a terrible choice: betray her only child or risk her family’s future.

Present Day: When her dreams of becoming a musician are shattered, Lucy Brown takes refuge in her family’s ancestral home in Oxfordshire, once home to Robert Catesby, the gunpowder plotter. There she starts to have strange visions of a woman in Tudor dress, a woman whose story runs parallel to and then converges with her own. Lucy is determined to find out more about this apparition and in doing so uncovers a chain of secrets that have been hidden for centuries…

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A Very Brief History of Buttons

Button_collection_displayPat here:

I’m still digging around in research for my current, very tentative, historical idea. I’m thinking the village I talked about last time has lost its inhabitants to industries which pay better than farming small plots. And I’m thinking whatever cottage industry once paid women has also died, so young people packed up and left, and there’s no one left.

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How Many Books Is Too Many Books?

IMG_5579 (004)Nicola here, and today I'm asking the provocative question "how many books is too many books"? And as a follow up to that: "What system do you use to categorise your bookshelves?" You see, I need help and advice. The time has finally come to sort out my “library.” This is rather a grand term for a muddled collection of books on shelves, in boxes and in stacks on the floor all over the house with only a notional system of what is where. For years I’ve been saying I need some sort of cataloguing system, yet each time I sit down with my books to try to categorise them, I either get distracted into reading something I had forgotten was there or I am so overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task that I retreat and close the door on the mess. There are obvious downsides to this, most annoyingly the fact that I can’t find half the books I know are there and when I need them for research – or to re-read a favourite novel – I’ll spend ages huffing around looking for them. Also, I have been known on more than one occasion to buy multiple copies of things just because I didn’t realise/remember they were already in my collection. So a neatly-ordered bookshelf is crucial.

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