Potting Sheds and Pondering

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In a very picturesque North Yorkshire village called Hutton-le-hole there is an amazing museum of rural life.
http://www.ryedalefolkmuseum.co.uk/

The buildings link the lifestyle of people in the region throughout the centuries. Folklore, husbandry, social history and crafts, such as: rope making, wheel hooping, saddlery, woodturning and hayrake making are demonstrated to name but a few.

The atmospheric buildings span history from Iron Age to the 1950’s showing the way of life of their inhabitants. It is a great place to take children to show them how we arrived at the lifestyle we have today. By going back to basics they, and adults, can see how labour intensive surviving day to day was. Food had to be grown, harvested or killed and prepared. Clothes had to be made from cloth that was woven or leather that was skinned and tanned. Food was prepared in advance of harsher seasons and had to be safely stored.

Before the Internet and our technological ways information was rarer and precious. News travelled slowly and superstition was rife. Ignorance was not bliss when it came to accusing people out of fear. However, people knew far more about the land and what it gave us that we could use for survival than we generally know today.

I find history fascinating. I love seeing a snippet of yesteryear within various different ages. I imagine characters and the adventures they could have had, set within my favourite periods in time. However, I am rarely nostalgic. When asked I have to say that I would never want to live in a time before antibiotics, washing machines, cars and computers. I love learning from history, but one thing I have learnt is that life was harsh but unfortunately wars still happen. Some lessons are never learnt it seems.

On a lighter note, I found the medieval hall, cottages and herb garden fascinating, but it was the simple potting shed that inspired a tranquil setting for a scene from Thomas’ father’s recovery in Stolen Treasure.

Extract from Stolen Treasure:

Thomas put down the bag and stepped into the half-light inside.
His father was sitting, just as he used to, on a stool with a chisel in one hand and a small mallet in the other as he worked at fixing a broken gate latch.
“Well, doctor, put your potions aside, for I’ll take none. Say your business and leave!” He looked up. “I am not in need of a doctor of body nor mind, so you have had a wasted journey. Whoever sent you will have to be disappointed.”
Thomas slowly removed his hat and propped it on top of the discarded bag. He then stepped a pace nearer to his father. “Pa… Pa what happened? Tell me the truth of it for it is I, Tom?”
His father’s tired eyes squinted and focused on his son’s face. He looked shocked, the chisel fell from his hand, but the mallet was still raised. “Tom, is it really you?” his voice cracked with emotion as he uttered the words.
Thomas stepped forward. “Yes, it is! I sent letters…”
The man stood. “You!” he muttered as he rushed forward.
Thomas opened his arms, but the mallet was still raised high.

 

An Interview with Richard Lee

I am delighted to welcome the chairman of The Historical Novel Society, Richard Lee, as this month’s guest. Richard founded the organisation in 1997 and it is now an international success.

RichardLeeSmallWhen you decided to found an organisation devoted to historical fiction, did you ever envisage it growing into such an amazing international body?

No! I did not know how it would be possible to be international, so I only envisaged a UK membership – though always celebrating international authors. We actually had US members sign up from the very beginning, which caused headaches about currency transactions and postage costs. This made us ‘ready’ for when internet links began to take off – and now we are much more international than British.

What have been the major developments/changes that you have seen in historical fiction since the HNS was founded?

In commercial historical fiction many things have changed. The ‘discovery’ of the significance of women’s lives has transformed the way that, for example, royalty and celebrity is written about. The success of ‘Sharpe’ and ‘Gladiator’ created a genre of military and epic historical fiction. We have also been blessed by literary authors pushing the boundaries in various ways – Michel Faber reconceiving the Victorian authorial viewpoint, many authors revisiting Colonial and World War narratives, Hilary Mantel turning accepted views of Tudor power and honour on their head.

How has historical fiction been influenced by the major changes within publishing in the last decade?

I am no expert here. Traditional publishing still knows how to publish the big books. The Miniaturist and Elizabeth is Missing we both debuts that had multiple agents interested, sold well into many territories, won prizes and became bestsellers. The main change I perceive is that there is much more opportunity for niche historicals to go it alone, often to the author’s benefit.

The HNS conferences have been hugely successful and enjoyable to attend. Could you share a few of your personal favourite highlights?

The things I remember from conferences are usually surprises from authors I admire – Louis de Bernieres, for example, saying that he wrote each chapter of Captain Corelli as a short story, and didn’t decide the running order till the end. Or Conn Iggulden emphasising just how powerful true coincidences are in history. Highlights are more likely downtime with fellow organisers or friends – meeting members off-stage and finding out more about them. It is great when it is all ‘done’!

What period of history do you have a particular interest in and why?

Early 20th C, Late Victorian, High Victorian, Regency, Georgian, Early Medieval, Saxon/Viking, Roman, Ancient Greek… But really anything!

Do you prefer reading or writing historical fiction?

Reading. I haven’t written consistently for a long while, though it remains an ambition.

How would you like to see the HNS develop in the future?

I always see the society as being about what members want – any enthusiasms that members have are for me to try to facilitate and nurture. This for a long time focussed on our magazines and reviews, which actively involve around 100 of us. Conferences are another big active area – this year over 400 will gather in Denver, and we had an inaugural conference in Sydney, Australia. The big ‘new’ areas of involvement are chapters based in different regions (mostly entirely independent) and connections through social media. Our awards are also popular (230 entries for the latest new novel prize), and we are looking into ways that the society can offer help and training to authors. Whether mainstream published or indie, all authors need help with marketing and promotion these days, we can all help each other.

What is next for Richard?

My first child was born a couple of years after I founded the society, two others followed, and the oldest is now 15. They are the real project and joy, but I still have a wish to write. I think I finally have a good idea!

More from the HNS

 

Majestic Moors

The North Yorkshire Moors are beautiful at this time of year. The heather is just coming into flower as a carpet of purple spread across the land. Bird lovers can see or hear red grouse, curlew and golden plover.

Meanwhile hikers and dog walkers can enjoy the open expanses as they follow the old paths trodden by the monks of old. However, as sheep roam freely over these vast areas of rare moorland, they must be kept on their leads so that both can live in harmony and mutual respect of farmer and walker.

I refer to Monks’ Trods in many of my stories such as To Love, Honour and ObeyBetrayal of Innocence. After the Norman Conquest the growth of monasteries meant that pathways across country were created to transport goods freely and to keep the monasteries and abbeys in touch. The region has many well preserved ruins: Rievaulx, Fountains, Whitby Abbeys as well as Guisborough and Mount Grace Priory to name a few. These pathways could also be used to take fish directly inland across moor to the dales, which made them excellent routes to be used by locals for the distribution of contraband in the heyday of smuggling in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

Many have since become overgrown. But these flagstone paths still exist in some places. The Quaker’s Causeway, where my photos were taken, runs from Guisborough (the setting of my fictitious market town of Gorebeck) to Commondale. Part of these medieval trods can still be used in this wild and beautiful landscape.

Ripon Cathedral and the Saxon Crypt

I could not leave Ripon without visiting its ancient cathedral. The ancient building has a fascinating history, the oldest part of which still exists. The ancient Saxon crypt of the original church founded by St Wilfred (AD 634-709) not only still exists, but is open to the public for exploration. Accessed via a narrow staircase and a short narrow tunnel, the small rooms are amazingly peaceful.

(By the way, I’m an author, not a professional photographer!)

St Wilfred influenced the decision of the christian church to move away from the Celtic Church and follow the Roman church. The decisive move been made in 664AD at The Synod of Whitby when the calculation of Easter was decided by following the Roman method. He had a fascinating life and survived many life threatening events.

The main building is a delightful mix of Norman and Gothic styles, reflecting the many periods of history it has survived through. Far from feeling like a museum, which provides cold facts for the casual visitor this is a living house of God. When I visited there were Bible readings in progress, yet we were made welcome giving the palace a warm, homely feel. Other activities were in progress at the same time. There is no set fee to pay, but donations are requested and voluntary.

My visit was quite short as I was en-route to a conference but Ripon is certainly a place I would happily revisit as I am sure that I did not explore all its treasures.

Further sources of information:


[Featured image / The Association of English Cathedrals]

Spring Offers!

Spring time has arrived at last and with it the chance to read a selection of my titles at only £0.99/$1.50 each! The selection of titles includes warm love stories set against mixed with adventure, mystery (or  a mixture of both!) set in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside of the early nineteenth century.


Chloe's FriendChloe’s Friend: Miss Chloe Branton has been found a position as a laundry maid in a wealthy country house. The work is hard and she is slight, but she stays knowing the arrangement is to keep her away from her father’s enemies. Mr Thaddeus Poole, is an unlikely person to offer her help, but Chloe does not know if he will betray her or be a true friend.


The Baker’s Apprentice: Molly Mason dreams of escaping from the control of Mrs Cresswell, her step-mother, by becoming an apprentice to her friend who owns the local bakery. This ill thought-out plan is stopped when Juniper Cresswell’s fiancé, war hero Lt. Cherry, returns accompanied with a soldier who had been presumed dead. The soldier brings with him suspicions of murder, mystery and the key to Molly’s heart.


Truth, Love & LiesTruth, Love & Lies: Major Luke Stainbridge returns to his beloved estate in England after being held prisoner by Napoleon, to discover he has been replaced by an impostor. Meanwhile, Miss Florence Swan, naively, ventures out into the world alone to avoid the drudge of life in a cotton mill.  Two lives are in chaos. Two destinies combine: will the love of truth be enough to destroy a sinister network of lies?


Felicity Moon: Miss Felicity Moon jeopardises her position, her life and her future when she strikes the Lord of the manor in self-defence and is forced to leave his household. Squire Moon, her father, is in gaol charged with bank-rolling smugglers and the storing of contraband. She has one last chance to save herself from ruin in the form of a reference written for a Mr Lucas Packman, a man her father dislikes intensely. She has a stark choice to make: trust Packman or her obey her incarcerated father.


Dead to Sin (A Penn Mystery – Book 1): Nicholas Penn is summoned to Gorebeck Gaol to visit a man accused of the rape and murder of five wenches. Having been found holding the body of the last victim in his arms his plight seems sealed. Nicholas is torn between a sense of duty and his feelings of hurt and disgust when being in the presence of the accused. The tables turn abruptly, and Nicholas becomes the incarcerated, duped and incensed he is sworn to find the man, Wilson, before another victim dies.


Betrayal of Innocence: Lydia works desperately hard at Bagby Hall in order to keep her ailing father from the poorhouse. She is a loyal person, but is racked with guilt as she knows her friend, Miss Georgette, is being cruelly used by Lord and Lady Bagby. It is only when she fears Miss Georgette’s life may be in danger that she acts  – but how?

An interview with Cindy Nord!

Cindy Nord - Professional ImageI am delighted to welcome my special guest this month, bestselling Historical Romance author, Cindy Nord.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview and share your experiences with us.

What inspired your love of books, or the desire to be a story-teller/writer yourself?

Coming from a family of educators, I’ve always been encouraged to read.  I devoured books by the dozens.  From classics to childhood favorites, books expanded my world. As I grew older, I also grew to love history, with a specific focus on the Victorian era.  I read my first romance, and fell in love with the genre. I enjoyed the details of history sprinkled throughout the storyline, coupled with an unrestrained romantic entanglement. Because of this combination, I felt moved to put pen to paper and craft my own love story.

NO GREATER GLORY cover

What characteristics do you think are essential in a hero or heroine?

I want my hero to be strong, involved and engaged. A man who transforms compassion into heroic action with a unique leadership ability that separates him from the rest of the pack. Of course, he’s not perfect, he does have his weaknesses, AND, ultimately, it will be the heroine who helps him overcome those internal conflicts and imperfections. Likewise, I want my heroine to have a resourceful and internal focus that becomes challenged when she meets her hero. She must have a resilient sense of purpose with an unfulfilled need that even she doesn’t know she has. And, in turn, the hero, at first overwhelming and unwanted, eventually fills this void inside her heart. Of course, the romance wrapped around these two individuals is the catalyst that spurs them onward to completing their tumultuous journey to happily-ever-after.

Reliable research is essential to historical authors, but when did you first become involved in Civil War re-enactments?

As a Victorian lecturer and historian, I appreciate the details that breathe a character to life upon the pages. Wonderful tidbits that immerse the reader fully into the time period.  And my experience in re-enacting only helped solidify this knowledge. Many years ago, when I began writing my first novel, I read in the newspaper that they were having a Civil War living history weekend at our local university. Holy Toledo! I couldn’t believe that they actually did this sort of thing.  Here was American history brought to life. The acrid aroma of campfires. The thundering gallop of cavalry horses. Women clad in Victorian gowns sashaying across a lawn. All the things that I was writing about at the time. Indeed, I was swept straight back into the nineteenth century, and fell head-over-heels in love with this whole new experience. Immediately, I threw myself into the hobby.  I even ended up meeting my future husband on the battlefield.  Although we no longer re-enact now, I’ll forevermore cherish those years spent living in the time period I love so well.

What can your readers expect from a Cindy Nord novel?

Passion. Emotion. Conflict. Indeed, an accurate, historical immersion. All those things plus an ardent romance filled with sensations that tug at a readers’ heartstrings. Getting my characters to ‘The End’ is a hard won journey, for sure. And the greatest test of success for any writer is when their readers make the trip through their novels and never want the love story to end.

In your fascinating career to date, what memorable moments stand out?

Oh my, such a great question. Let’s see… I’ll begin with being a Romance Writers of America National Golden heart finalist with No Greater Glory which started this whole incredible journey, signing with my fabulous literary agent, Louise Fury of the Jenny Bent Agency in New York City, the day my first box of books arrived from my publisher, being a USA Today Lifeblog ‘Recommended Read’ author, having my Civil War romance novel used as a supplemental read in a well-known university history class, receiving a stellar review by the Library Journal (buying bible for all libraries in the U.S., Canada & the U.K.), my first invitation to be a keynote speaker at an RWA affiliated chapter, and having my very first book signing at Barnes & Noble…these, and so many more, have truly brought me untold joy.

With Open Arms (USE)

Do you have a very organized day, or do you write around ‘life’, but to set targets?

Balancing my time and attention between writing, social media, my family and my friends is always a difficult task. I try to set up a schedule with mornings spent on the internet and my social media sites, with my afternoons devoted to writing. In the evening, my husband listens as I read what I’ve written for the day.  This is a routine that works well for me. I’m what they call a ‘pantser’ (writing without an outline), and must completely finish each chapter before moving on to the next. I wouldn’t advise anyone else to follow this writing style, so say the ‘plot-first’ experts, but it does seem to work for me.

Writing books involves long hours working at a computer. What do you do to keep healthy and active?

I thoroughly love to ‘water walk’ at the gym, plus I walk my two shelties daily around our neighbourhood. I also enjoy working in the garden, as well as bicycling with my husband. We are both passionate followers of an ‘organic’ lifestyle, along with nutraceutical supplementation.

Along with other writers, I understand that you contributed to an anthology for ‘Women in Need’. Could you tell us something about this work and the charity?

I was invited by writer-extraordinaire, Hope Tarr, to be part of her project entitled, “Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them” non-fiction anthology where I joined several New York Times & other romance fiction writers.  Each real-life story in this body of work details how we writers met, wed and love—and are loved and supported by—our spouses and life partners. All proceeds from this literary compilation go directly to Women In Need, a New York City women’s shelter for abused females & their children. I am so honoured to have been asked to participate. Happily Ever After isn’t only the stuff of romance novels and fairy tales.

What single piece of advice would you give to any, as yet, unpublished author?

Never, ever, ever give up on your dream. And since we’re going to dream anyway…DREAM BIG!

What is next for Cindy?

I am putting the finishing touches on AN UNLIKELY HERO, the third book in my four-book The Cutteridge Series. I anticipate this love story debuting Spring, 2016.  I’ve also been invited to host one of the ten coveted ‘opening night’ tables at the 2015 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Dallas in May.  I’m also doing several book signings, as well as guest interviews for television stations. Plus, lecturing on Victorian fashions at several locations across the Midwest.

More from Cindy:

Abigail Moor – The Cruck Inn

Abigail Moor KEC_1Abigail has to flee her home to escape from a forced marriage. This love story wrapped around an adventure takes the heroine away from the comfortable country manor house which has always been her home, onto the wilds of the North Yorkshire moors, to the beauty of the ancient city of York. From here she must seek refuge in the busy seaport of Whitby to discover who she really is.

She embraces her destiny and, accompanied by her maid, makes for The Cruck Inn, a coaching inn, on the moor road where her quest begins. Here, Abigail has her first experience of what the real world is like beyond her sheltered life Beckton Manor. The Cruck Inn was named after the design of the North Yorkshire cruck-built buildings. Spout House is an excellent example of an early inn which still exists in Bilsdale. I visited it when researching the area and was amazed at how well it was preserved. It is literally like taking a step back in time. Abigail Moor: The Darkest Dawn is available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Here are some photos I took of the amazing time capsule that is Spout House.