Previous editions of the Journal pages

Here we are in another new year - 2011, where did 2010 go? Bet some pirate stole it.

My family had a hectic December, thank goodness for the Christmas break to take time out and put our feet up. The main thing - aside from Christmas shopping, decorating the house and wondering just how we were going to get the big goose in the little oven - was moving stable yards. Sadly the farm where we've stabled the horses for the last few years has been sold and is to be demolished for a new modern house. 16 acres of prime land overlooking Epping Forest. If I only had about £3 million.

I have stabled my horses, and then Kathy's, at Bury Farm on and off for about 40 years. I first went there when I was 18. My horse, Kaler, had been lame so was on box rest. The stable staff were supposed to keep his stable clean while I was away for a couple of days - came back to find him standing in filth. I spent the afternoon touring local stable yards and found suitable accommodation at Bury Farm. I moved yards that evening. I have accumulated many happy memories of Bury Farm, and a few sad ones. But I suppose everything changes and the time to move on comes around for a reason.

The move of our three horses plus two belonging to friends was undertaken just as the snow decided to fall on London. Bit of a nightmare day, heightened by the roads steadily getting icier. You'd be surprised just how much stuff between them five horses accumulate. It was about as stressful as moving house. Worse! Removal men do not have to persuade furniture and household goods to walk into the trailer. Getting a 17 hand, two-year-old filly having a "teenage" strop to load is not that easy.

We have a new member of the family. Mab, a black & white kitten. Photos of her can be found here

We very nearly called her Trouble; what a bundle of mischief she is! Twelve weeks old and into absolutely everything. We lost most of the tinsel off the lower branches of the Christmas Tree, Ron's laces were "mysteriously" chewed, A ping pong ball lasted all of two seconds before it was chased beneath the refrigerator, and I am not pulling the fridge out to retrieve it. The wrapping paper from our Christmas presents was seventh heaven for her, and as for all the empty boxes. She sprawls "frog fashion" across my desk and bats at my fingers as I type. At the moment she is sound asleep in a basket I've provided her with, head and one paw lolling over the edge, the rest of her curled up. Ah, she's so cute when she's asleep. Shush. Don't wake her up. Not until I've finished writing this journal entry anyway.

Rum, our dog is not so sure about her. I think he was rather hoping that Santa would "take the pesky little black thing" away. She hasn't endeared herself to him by biting his floppy ears. Poor old Rum!

So, the New Year has brought us new things to enjoy and look forward to, although Christmas was a little difficult remembering the anniversaries of the not-so-happy events of 2009; the loss of Kathy's horse, Izzy, and my Mum, who passed away on Christmas morning 2009.

Sometimes it is hard to get through first anniversaries, to close doors and walk along new paths, not knowing what Fate will be bringing. Making decisions is often hard; not knowing whether you are doing the right thing or not - deciding which bridge to cross, which to burn.

I hope, therefore, for you my dear friends and readers, that the paths you choose to follow for 2011 turn out to be not too steep or rocky, and the views along the way promise to be good. And even if you do inadvertently burn the wrong bridge - well, you could always swim the river, or find a boat!

The very best for 2011 to you all. The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.

What an up and down month January turned out to be. The highs were the size of Everest, the lows the deepest depth of the ocean.

Kathy had a fall from Ace, her grey thoroughbred. He ducked his head and put in an enormous buck. No chance of staying on. Result, the need to buy a new riding helmet, a cracked rib - and high indignation. She landed right in a very wet, very muddy puddle.

It's hardly surprising that the horses have been playing up, the snow before Christmas, lingering ice and frost, now wet, muddy and bitterly cold. They get bored of being exercised in the same ménage - they want to be out galloping on the grass.

Lexie damaged her tendon before Christmas, no idea how she did it, except we suspect she slipped on ice while in her field. Another vet visit and a second scan showed it is healing well. Kathy can walk her for thirty minutes now. The vet said it would be a lot easier for Kathy if she could ride her instead of leading. Lexie is now 17 hands, which is enormous! She has already been made familiar with wearing a bridle and saddle, so Kathy got a friend to hold her, another friend to leg her up (leaning over the horse's back first) and then just sat on her. Lexie didn't even twitch her ears. Far too interested in the proffered carrot. They walked her forward a few paces, Kathy slid off. That's it. Backed.

Kath won't do much with her, after all Lexie is still a baby, but as Kath only weighs about two feathers, she'll gently ride her round the farm with someone else leading.

Rum, our dog fell poorly towards the end of the month with Vestibular Disease; the symptoms look like a stroke, but actually it's nowhere near as serious and quite common in older dogs. Basically it's a loss of balance which causes disorientation. He's on the mend now, but Ron and I were so scared when we rushed him to the vets. We thought we were going to have him put to sleep. I added a post about him on my Facebook wall and my gosh the number of people who sent their good wishes! Thank you everyone.

One e-mail I received in the middle of January made me somewhat "miffed". I applied to become a member of a new writer's association, and was turned down on the grounds that my UK publisher is "not suitable" (because they use print on demand and are also a self publish company, I assume. The fact that many big publishing houses use P.O.D. and I am with CallioPress's fully mainstream imprint was immaterial.) As I am also published by Sourcebooks in the US my credentials should have been acceptable - but what annoyed me, I was turned down "partly because we wish to remain a network of professionals for professionals."

Oh, so I'm not a professional writer eh? I wish I could convince the taxman of that! And I'd like to know what I do all day when tapping away at this keyboard if I'm not a professional writer! Harrumph, and similar huffy noises.

I put a short message of indignation about it on my Facebook wall and was inundated with supportive comments from dozens of people who love my books, including several authors I've admired for ages.

I was also urged to join the Historical Novel Society - of which I'm already a member; I must check I've paid my fees this year! - and the Romantic Novelists Association. No problem with these two, I've been accepted and made welcome by both. Plus I've been invited to a meeting of the HNS in February and invited as a guest speaker in May for the London Chapter of the RNA. What a difference in attitude.

My various Blogs have kept me busy. The term 'Blog' is derived from Web Log by the way. I've recently opened a new one, which I think is going to prove quite popular; a weekly Guest spot. I'm inviting ordinary people with something interesting to share and I have quite a list of guest already lined up - pop across and have a look. One February guest is a new(ish) friend of mine, Richard Denning. He set up his own publishing company to self-published his books, has asked my own marvellous graphics designer to re-design his book covers and website and is about to embark on a virtual book tour on the Internet. Good for you Richard!

All of my books are now on Kindle, which is great. The one advantage of Kindle - apart from you don't have to lug a huge pile of books about with you when travelling - is that if you want to read a book, zap, it's there on the Kindle at the press of a button. No having to go to the shops or wait for the postman. I still intend to buy real books, the best ones that are worth owning and keeping as a book.

Finally, I've been helping a wonderful lady edit her novel. I won't name her here as it might embarrass her, but I'm finding it hard to keep her confidence level up. Yes the novel is raw and needs a lot of polishing, but the plot is good, the characters have a lively, believable personality and I'm loving helping her get this particular potential diamond fully polished.

Confidence is so easily lost - so hard to build and maintain.

I should know; receiving e-mails that imply I'm not a good writer can knock me for six. However, as I say above, 'Being published doesn't make me an expert - except possibly in how not to do it.'

And you only learn the "nots" by experience, hard slog, and ignoring those who are determined, for one reason or another, to rain on your parade. Being published doesn't make me an expert, except possibly in how not to do it.
We had a drama. Quite an expectant one. Mab, our kitten, was discovered to be pregnant.

In itself, maybe not so dramatic, but she is only just coming up to five months old - much too young to be having kittens. Very puzzling as well, as she isn't sexually mature yet. At first we thought her broadening belly was her just getting fat, a growing kitten and all that, but then the bulge went distinctly "rugby ball" shape, and that was it. Off to the vet.

Thank goodness we have a good vet! He took one look and stated the kittens would have to go - Mab was too small and too young, neither she nor any kittens would survive the birth. So the deed was done the next morning - she had five kittens! Five tiny little lives that would have died in dreadful circumstances had she been a feral cat, or with a home that didn't notice these sort of things.

They day after her "op" Mab was back on her feet, bouncing about and up to her kittenish things - like pouncing on my bare feet. She loves going in and out of my office window: If it's shut she sits on the windowsill looking forlorn until I let her out, then when its time to come back in she stands on the shelf outside looking even more forlorn as she peers plaintively in. Mind you, she has a perfectly serviceable cat flap to use!

When she's not out playing lions and tigers in the garden, she curls up in a basket on my desk. I move around very quietly so as to not wake her. Ten minutes peace and quiet. Kids eh? Or should that be kits?

The Historical Novel Society have started a new London Chapter. I went to the first meeting. So lovely to sit and chat to other authors about historical fiction, writing and reading. Membership of the HNS is open to both readers and writers - if you love historical fiction, why not join?

I've also met up with some delightful authors from the Romantic Novelists Association. Lunch with Jean Fullerton passed an enjoyable Tuesday afternoon, and I'm looking forward to the forthcoming Pure Passion Awards Champagne reception in early March. Full report next month. A dilemma: what to wear? I'll find something suitable. I hope.

On the home front, spring finally looks like it might be tentatively ambling over the horizon; daffodils about to burst forth into hosts of golden clouds fluttering and dancing in the breeze (or getting flattened by the dog and the cat); buds are budding and birds are twittering (just like on Twitter!) and a sparrow and a robin almost came to a punch-up over the nest box above my office window. I'm not sure that I ought to be encouraging the birds with Mab around, although she has got three tinkle-bells and her metal name disc on her collar, so maybe they will hear her coming.

I've been gadding about a little; a relaxing few days with friends in Aylesbury. I must mention the pub we had dinner in, the Bottle and Glass in the village of Gibraltar just outside Aylesbury. The best meal I have had in a long time. Mmm, that melt-in-the-mouth sticky toffee pudding.

Kathy has re-opened her Equestrian Blog, which is mainly about side-saddle riding. She's updated it recently because Les Topham Brown, currently serving in the armed forces within the Household Cavalry came to the stable yard to do a photoshoot of her competition costumes to boost his expanding portfolio of work. Kathy now has two costumes, the green velvet Kings Royal Rifles that she had last year, and a Colonial style gown in blue and white. Don't ask how we are going to keep it clean, though. There are pictures on her blog. With the aid of Judy Hanna, my dear friend who lives in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, I managed to acquire a genuine Colonial straw hat, with rouched ribbons around the flat crown. We now have to find some substantial hatpins to anchor it to her rather fine hair.

Bookwise, I have my March Virtual Tour through several blog sites in the US for the publication of I Am The Chosen King - the US edition of Harold the King. So far the reviews have been good, so fingers crossed for it doing well.

I was accepted for publication eighteen years ago in April 1993, one week after my 40th birthday. There have been quite a few ups and several downs along the road in between then and now, but I do indeed speak of the past gratefully, look to the future excitedly, and view the present - and the anticipation of this current Blog Tour - with a rather broad Cheshire grin.

Thank you to all my readers, fans, fellow authors, supporters and friends for contributing to the enjoyment of the ride. Speak of the past gratefully, the future excitedly, and of the present with a Cheshire grin.
Readers of my Monthly Journal will recall that our kitten, Mab, had a "drama" not long ago. You will be pleased to hear that she has now fully recovered and is an absolute monkey! Her favourite game is hiding under something - usually my bed - then leaping out to grab my feet as I walk past and scooting off to hide somewhere else. This is funny when I have shoes and socks on, but not so clever with bare feet after a shower or first thing in the morning. She has a quirky kitty grin though, so I can't get cross with her.

She is never far from where I am. As usual, she is curled asleep in her little basket on my desk as I type this. She's a little darlin'.

For myself I had a bit of a "blip" when I was diagnosed as possibly having had a mild stroke. I'm fine; I just have to lose a bit of weight (hah, easier said than done) and get my high blood pressure down. Probably cholesterol too, but I'm still waiting for the results on that.

Occurrences like this give you a bit of a wake up call don't they? All the projects you haven't yet done or completed, all the things that are or are not important. I have resolved to concentrate on what needs to be done and should be done - and the could be done's can wait. I also intend to say "no" more often when people ask me to do something, especially if I do not want to do it. I've enough of my own stuff to wade through folks!

We had another drama a week or so ago, one that made me so furious that I resorted to soliciting the aid of my Facebook friends:-

Husband Ron regularly walks our dog, Rum round the nearby fields. They used to be good playing fields when the Sports Club was open, but now they are somewhat neglected and the club itself is derelict. Several travellers' horses are left to graze there.

Twice Ron reported to the animal welfare R.S.P.C.A that the five horses had no water. I reported the matter again. Another day passed - it was now nearly four days since they had been given water and no one was doing anything. What made me so angry was that a month previously a yearling foal had died of starvation in an adjoining field. It could have been saved had the R.S.P.C.A. responded. I was not going to let the same thing happen again. So when it became obvious that no one of authority was going to attend.. I put an appeal on Facebook. The response was fantastic. Thank you to everyone who added their voice, re-posted, and also commented on the R.S.P.C.A. wall and tweeted on Twitter.

If the situation had not been so tragic I would have laughed when we finally received a response; a report that the horses were now fine and well. The accompanying photographs proved it. Nice grass, healthy horses, a running stream through the field. Great, except it was obvious from the topography, number of horses, location etc that this was not the field I was talking about.

I received an e-mail from my local councillor and from the MP, both of whom had picked up my messages on Twitter. At last the R.S.P.C.A. came. The horses were given water and feed, and at the moment they have remained looked after.

So thank you every one, a good job achieved - and it shows how powerful social networks can be,

On a less distressing note, I attended the Awards Night at the Romantic Novelists Association. I was delighted that my good friend, Elizabeth Chadwick, received Best Historical Fiction Novel for To Defy A King.

My even greater delight, though, was that actor Tim Bentinck a.k.a. David Archer from the Radio 4 "soap" The Archers was presenting the awards. I didn't get to meet him, but well, next year maybe? (Of course I hate Elizabeth now because she shook his hand! *laugh*)

I have a lot of news to tell you next month about my books, but plans are not finalised yet so I will have to keep you waiting. Yes, I know, this is a dastardly plan to get you to come back here on the 1st May.

Meanwhile my US publisher, Sourcebooks Inc has opened a rather fantastic Facebook page especially for their female British authors - the British Babes Book Brigade.

It is as a way to connect British authors with their North American audience and the intention is to keep things fun and fresh . There will be interviews, book launches, giveaways - discussion topics. My "big Day" was March 26th; scroll down their wall and I expect you will find me.

I also had great fun on my recent Book Blog Tour. Thank you so much to those Bloggers who invited me as a guest, or reviewed I Am The Chosen King.

Out of all the lovely things said about my book this has to be one of the most unique reviews of How To Make Sense of the Norman Invasion!

I've also had a nice comment on one of the forums about my novel The Forever Queen:

"I am very well read on pre- & immediate post- Norman Conquest & found nothing that I didn't agree with in her writings on the period. I found her book on Emma quite enlightening in some areas and thought provoking. In so many books on this period I find myself often cringing and sometimes even screaming aloud at the inaccuracies and/or lack of understanding for the period and attitudes of the time."

That's heartening isn't it?

I am so pleased that I am able to use my writing skills and imagination to make things up well enough to be believed! There's an old saying about those who forget history. I don't remember it, but it's good.
Writing can be a silly occupation. Solitary, often hard, tedious, work for few rewards. But it is compulsive, and those few rewards can be great indeed: seeing your novel on a shelf in a bookstore; receiving an e-mail from an appreciative fan; a fabulous review; a nomination for an award.

There is the sheer pleasure of starting with a blank page and experiencing the excitement of bringing a character to life. Of delving beneath the facts of what happened and when, and filling in all the missing bits of why, how and with whom. That is the joy of writing!

Having a book published, however, is not always plain sailing. Several years ago my backlist was dropped by William Heinemann - historical fiction had gone out of fashion, and simultaneously my agent abandoned me. I was on my own and facing the prospect of not writing another novel. I spent two weeks sobbing, then pulled myself together and set out to find an alternative publisher.

I discovered an independent company who, as part of their small mainstream imprint, took my backlist and my new venture: the first of the Sea Witch voyages. There were hiccups, but the office staff were enthusiastic and I had high hopes for the future.

The current economic climate is not kind to small firms. My UK publisher, CallioPress, is to restructure, a decision which does not suit my books or me, and with familiar staff - some of whom have become close friends - moving on, I found myself, for a second time, facing the prospect of being out of print.

I had four choices:   Give up writing   Find an alternative mainstream publisher   Go self-publish (produce my books myself)   Find a company that provided assisted publishing.

For me, 1 was not an option. I cannot give up writing, not while I still have a story in my head to share. Choice 2: I am mainstream published in the US and other countries, but approaching a similar UK publishing house, with their full lists and tight printing schedules, could have resulted in my novels being unavailable for many months - years maybe.

I have many friends who would be so disappointed to see them temporarily disappear, as would I.

Lacking the technical knowledge, or time, to go self publish was not viable or practical, although the thought of running my own company was tempting. However, excited by the prospect of being in control of my destiny - and my books - I decided to opt for choice 4. Find a good, reliable company who would help me self publish all my books.

I have known Helen Hart of SilverWood Books, based in Bristol, for several years and it was therefore an easy choice to send my precious novels into her good care, confident she would produce quality editions, quickly and efficiently.

Transferring my list of seven books has been hard and dedicated work these last four weeks, not just for me, but for the team at SilverWood Books, my graphic designer Cathy Helms of AvalonGraphics, and my wonderful editors Jo Field and Michaela Unterbarnscheidt.

I am also very grateful to author Linda Proud Smith for her advice and Stuart McAllister and Kelly Stambaugh for being my "readers" with fresh eyes to check PDF proof copies. And I thank authors Sharon Penman, Bernard Cornwell, Elizabeth Chadwick, James Nelson and Suzanne McLeod for their continuing support.

With luck, Harold the King and the Sea Witch Voyages will be available under the SilverWood Logo in early June, with the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy available soon after. Harold is the only one with a completely new cover - another Cathy Helms design.

My books are unlikely to be huge bestsellers, but with the right publisher, good marketing and lots of enthusiasm they will make on-going steady sales, and will, hopefully, remain popular for a long time yet.

The five-minute-wonder books are exclaimed over for a short star-burst of time, and being truthful, many of them are not all they are trumpeted up to be. I rarely read them. I prefer the sort of book that becomes a treasure, with characters to fall in love with and a story that can be read over and over again. That's why I write my books. I write what I want to read.

The decision to lose my UK mainstream status and go Self Publish has not been an easy one. Nor have the production costs been cheap - more on the "gulp" level - but I love my characters and I have great respect and fondness for all my followers, fans, friends and readers.

Your encouragement and enthusiasm was all the incentive I needed to make the decision to keep my characters alive and well. And in print.

For that, I thank you, and I look forward to sharing my novels - and the adventures of my characters - with you for many years to come. I write books that I like to read: I'm not too keen on reading five-minute-wonder blockbusters
Well, one down, six to go. Harold the King, the UK edition of US I Am The Chosen King, is back in print here in the UK with its fabulous new cover. (Big Hint - buy here via the link to Amazon.co.uk at the bottom of my home page or direct from SilverWood Books).

Sea Witch and the follow-on Voyages will be coming out in June, re-edited and re-packaged with a slight change of cover and inside graphics - new map, new sail plan.

SilverWood Books are doing me proud - marketing me as an author should be marketed, complete with an instantly recognisable 'brand'. You will notice when each cover is revealed that there will be standard uniformity to the layout, especially for the layout of my name, which will be the same on all books and marketing material, and also on this website!

The new font for the Sea Witch titles is especially exciting as Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics managed to find one that is most appropriate - it's called Pieces of Eight! Cathy has also designed me a wonderful new ship silhouette which will be used in the books and elsewhere. This is all getting very exciting isn't it?

I am still busy with the re-editing - have reached the proof-reading stage now, then will be playing the part of a celeb in July (no keeping this a secret!) for I am opening a local Flower Festival at St Edmund's Church, Chingford on 9th July at 10 a.m., and right after that I'm catching the train to Bristol for their Pirate Weekend.

On Sunday 10th July I will be aboard the Grain Barge on Bristol Harbourside signing copies of Sea Witch and eager to chat to any passing son (or daughter) of a sea-dog. I will be joined by Helen Hart, Senior Partner of SilverWood in her guise as author 'Becky Baxter' and her pirate-based children's story: 'Sail away on a swashbuckling adventure aboard the Bonny Marie with young Billy Baxter - who is not the boy he pretends to be! The Black Banner has it all - pirates, plunder, and the pleasure of a rollicking good read!" Well you know me, a sucker fir anything about pirates!

Talking of which, I went to see the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides, and sad to say I couldn't see much of it because of the 3D.

Apart from the fact that the 3D glasses made it look so dark, it turns out that anyone with eye problems is not advised to watch 3D - this is about 20% of the population. It has a similar effect to strobing, can cause headaches, nausea and played havoc with my present problem of double vision. So I guess I'll have to wait and see Jack Sparrow in 2D on DVD.

I must share another discovery enabled by my graphics designer, Cathy Helms - the music of Loreena McKenitt, a Canadian singer of traditional Celtic music, which are absolutely beautiful. I have them playing now as I write this. I have also recently discovered the fabulous Lisa Gerrard. Anyone who has seen Russell Crowe in Tha Gladiator will recognise her for her haunting vocals of 'the Wheatfield'. Both artists are in the evocative 'goosebumps-while-listening' category!

When writing I listen to music that helps me transport my imagination back in time, to link to the feel of the past. Depending on the scene I am writing the tracks I listen to can be spiritual, romantic, sad or the quick pace of a fight. Master and Commander, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Last of the Mohicans soundtracks are especial favourites for my Sea Witch Voyages mood music. Whether it improves my writing I don't know.

I was a tad disappointed a few weeks ago when hearing from my mainstream US publisher that they were not interested in taking the Sea Witch Voyages, as they felt the slight fantasy element did not quite fit their historical fiction genre listing. Fair enough, but rejection is still hard to take, especially when you know what you have written is good.

As one friend said to me to cheer me up, though: 'You are now into that territory like Richard Adams with Watership Down. A bestseller on your hands if only someone would take off the blinkers and see what is there.'

And then I thought about things. Did I really want a publisher taking control of my beloved Jesamiah Acorne? Do I want to be shackled by the conventional publishing world, to have to write stories that fit an existing list and a marketing-convenient genre?

The short answer to that is what all pirates would say. No. The freedom to do as you please far outweighs the restrictions of the norm. The work involved in going self publish with the assistance of SilverWood Books has been hard going and time-consuming, but I am indeed 'the master of my fate: the captain of my soul.'

Well, when Jesamiah lets me. It matters not how strait the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Fantastic news (fanfare plays) - I am now officially a bestselling author!

Forever Queen, the US edition of A Hollow Crown, made it into the USA Today bestseller list. 124th out of 150. Ok so not high up, and it was only there for one week, but it's a start. Ironic that Queen/Crown has never been my favourite book - perhaps it is now? My thanks to everyone who bought it and enjoyed it. Ahem, now, how about buying the follow-up Harold the King? It's called I am the Chosen King in the US.

I am getting complaints from readers about these changes of titles - one woman was quite rude to me. I rather take exception to being insulted in public on my own Facebook Page. I blocked her, and she will stay blocked.

I have tried my best to always make it clear that Harold/Chosen King is the same book but with different titles, and that it was not my decision to change anything. I've now taken to automatically forwarding these complaints direct to Sourcebooks Inc in the US. Next time a publisher wants to change a title I will very forcefully say no. My consolation, other authors have the same problem with title changes. Elizabeth Chadwick for one, which is a very neat way to link to her latest novel - Lady of the English. I loved it; it isn't a novel, it's recreated reality. And the cover is absolutely gorgeous.

As I write this I am suffering from toothache, well, missing-tooth-ache to be accurate. I had an infection so the tooth had to come out. You'd not believe that a small tooth could leave such a large gap, but fortunately it's at the back. It wasn't actually the tooth extraction that hurt but the injection used to numb the gum. After the dentist had prised me off the ceiling...

As you can see from the homepage I am going to be busy this coming month: opening the flower festival in Chingford, then a dash to catch the train to Bristol for the Pirate Party. I will be signing copies of Sea Witch on The Grain Barge, Mardyke Wharf, from 2 p.m. Sunday 10th July. The evening before I've been invited to watch a performance of Treasure Island, which should be fun, and I think there will be some exciting things happening on the Sunday morning. Mainly I will be aboard The Matthew. I am so excited at actually sailing in a vessel - a first!

I will be staying near one of Bristol's more famous pubs - the Llandoger Trow. Tradition has it that this pub (well, 'tavern' back in the 1600s) was Robert Louis Stevenson's inspiration for the Admiral Benbow in Treasure Island.

Daniel Defoe supposedly also met Alexander Selkirk there, his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. Selkirk asked to be put ashore onto an island off the coast of Chile in the early 1700s because he did not trust the Captain's ability nor the sea-worthiness of the ship. He was proven right because it sank. What he did not count on, though, was that it would be four years before another ship came by! The ship happened to be carrying Woodes Rogers and William Dampier, friends of Defoe's - and incidentally, characters in Sea Witch. Expect to see the Llandoger Trow in a future Sea Witch Voyage.

At the end of this month Kathy will be competing at the Royal International Horse Show, so let's hope the rain holds off. We've had a terrific storm here in London today (28th June) pouring rain complete with banging music and flashing lights. Mab, the kitten, well, cat now, got caught out in it. She came in looking like a drowned cat! This morning she brought me the wonderful gift of a dead mouse. Then a second and third one. It is so hard to look grateful for such rather revolting presents.

I suppose it is the forthcoming Flower Festival opening that has set me thinking about local events that I've been connected with in the past. My Dad, Fred Turner, was a Councillor for many years - and a darn good one. You'll find his name on a plaque in Chingford Town Hall, and anyone residing in Yardley Lane who relies on the buses has my Dad to thank, for back in the 60's he campaigned to have that bus route established.

As a prominent Councillor's daughter I was invited to all sorts of things, most of which I now can't remember because I was so shy I hated attending them. The highlight was accompanying the Lady Mayoress to the Lord Mayor of London's annual children's party at the Mansion House, London. I was about 12 I think. It was fancy dress and I went as Alice in Wonderland. I remember going with Mum and Dad to a proper Fancy Dress Hire shop and being overwhelmed by all the lovely costumes. We went to the event in the official Rolls Royce, and all I can remember is having to repeat my name "Helen Mary Turner" three times at the door because I was so scared I could only whisper. I vaguely recall wandering aimlessly around those great big rooms on my own; the other kids seemed to be having a great time, but all I wanted to do was go home because I didn't know anyone and was too shy to say hello. What a waste of a fantastic experience! Lack of self confidence is an absolute pain. And believe it or not, I am still shy and very lacking in self confidence - but I am old enough, now, to pretend I'm not.

Maybe that's why I'm a good writer? I'm very good at pretending. I have been through some incredible events in my life - some of which actually happened.
Pirates, books and boats. I've been in my element for a whole month!

My Sea Witch Blog Tour weighed anchor at the beginning of July - and under full sail and with a following wind it has been an enormous success, even if I did spend one day discussing the pros and cons of whether it was right for a pirate to (ahem) not keep his breeches buttoned!

I've had some fabulous reviews, met many interesting people on line, and had a great time - all thanks to my Jesamiah. Invented characters can be such fun!

Blog Tours are hard work. The Internet equivalent of a book tour, but instead of going from store to store, its Blog to Blog. Maybe there will just be a review, or information about the book. More often than not, an article written by the author, or questions asked and answered. Whatever the "port of call" it is up to the author to keep a weather eye on the subsequent comments left by various readers, and to promote the site on Twitter, Facebook etc. That in itself is challenging because the last thing my followers want is day after day of "hey I've got a great review!"

I don't think I managed to bore too many people, though, in fact I'm certain Jesamiah now has a growing fan club.

Talking of which: I have an Australian Fan Page on Facebook. Non Oz residents are welcome to click "like" and join in various comments and debates about my books. My thanks to Paula Mildenhall and Jel Cel for setting it up.

Early July also saw me "sailing" up the River Avon around Bristol harbour, with a bunch of pirates aboard The Matthew. Technically, we were under motor, not sail, but who cares? It was a superb day, with pirate fights, pirate dancing and a pirate fancy dress competition. People I met included Stuart and his nephew Callum. Stuart has very kindly been one of my readers, helping wade through the mammoth re-edit of my books. Lovely to meet Jules from Facebook, and young Bristol actor, Fife McKenny - a lad with a huge potential talent methinks!

One thing I discovered: I know, now, why women were not welcome aboard ship. A practical reason. I was wearing my Jesamiah Blue long, and somewhat full, skirt. Believe me, it is not easy negotiating a swaying deck, rigging, stays and coils of cordage. As for attempting to negotiate any companionway ladders up on to the quarterdeck, or down into the hold - forget it! And I didn't have whalebone hoops beneath my gown, as women in the 17th - 19th centuries would!

I was aboard with my new Bristol-based publisher, Helen Hart from SilverWood Books, who has written her own marvellous pirate adventure for children (10 - 13 year old age group) In The Black Banner, Billy goes to sea and ends up meeting the real pirates on the Caribbean - only Billy is actually Becky..

The keen eyed among you who click on the Matthew link above, may recognise her from a recent movie - she took the part of the Dawn Treader in the latest C.S. Lewis movie.

I have had my own guests during the Tour. Cathy Helms, my Graphics Designer came on to my Guest Blog to talk about how she design covers, followed by a Musical Interlude, courtesy of Bronwen Harrison.

Many of my author friends - and myself - listen to music while writing. Different tracks spark different inspirations. Bronwen talks about what inspires her to write songs.

Plus, as an added bonus, we launched her new CD Songs Of A Sea Witch, especially compiled to complement my Sea Witch Voyages, with several of her nautical flavoured songs. Beware, though, it is a CD that grows on you, to the extent that you don't realise you are walking around humming the tunes. Two special tracks; Gallows Wake has always been a favourite of mine, inspired the sixth Sea Witch Voyage (also called Gallows Wake and will be written one day soon, I promise) and serves as the soundtrack to the YouTube Video, and Dark Music, a song about that dastardly pirate, Blackbeard.

The quote at the top of this page by the way, does not belong to that particular villain. 'Blodeuedd' from Books For Life Blogspot mentioned it in her review.

Sums up my Jesamiah just right, I think! I am not saying he was a gentleman, he was just a pirate who was sort of nice.

I am making progress with all my books, although I'm finding it confusing writing Ripples In The Sand and proofreading the last two of the Arthur trilogy - Pendragon's Banner and Shadow of the King. Flitting from one time period to another is a bit of a brain burner. Fortunately, my UK editor, Jo, has done a good job, as usual, with her copyedit.

I laughed outright with one phrase Jo highlighted in her edit. I think all writers make the mistake at some point in their career of "disembodied eyes and limbs". To say "his eyes ran round the room" or, "he took his hand from his pocket" is fine when talking, but written down it can seem rather odd. "He glued his eyes on her face." Yuck. Messy!

Sometimes there is no choice for oddities: dropped his feet to the floor, set his feet on the deck, put his feet down - how else do you say it? (Suggestions welcome.)

I'm as guilty as any writer of these clumsy gaffs but none of my former editors picked them up, so the Arthur books have quite a few errant eyes running about the room. The sentence Jo came across that made me laugh was absurd though - no idea how it wasn't spotted earlier in the book's lifetime!

  "He tossed his head towards the fire."

Don't go looking for it in the new SilverWood edition of The Kingmaking. It isn't there now.

I spent most of the Bank Holiday weekend working out how Jesamiah would take the Sea Witch up river from Appledore, in Devon, to Bideford.

In the 18th Century, Bideford was second only to London for the tobacco trade. Ships came in from the Colonies, mainly Virginia, to sell their cargo. Back then, the river Torridge was not as silted up as it is now, although The Bar - a sand bar across the estuary at Appledore - was just as much a hazard as in present day.

I love a challenge, and researching some topics can be fascinating. I now know quite a bit about "working" a tall ship upriver, safely negotiating bends by using the force of a flood tide and manoeuvring to and fro across the river channel. Hauling the sails to use the wind, drifting with the current broadside on, or sometimes going stern first. To round a bend the manoeuvres seem to be the sailing equivalent of doing a modern three point turn in a car. I've discovered that ships were often towed down river with the tide because it was safer. The momentum created by the weight of the vessel and the force of the tide could cause the ship to move too fast, and thus fall out of control. Like driving too fast down a steep hill. Fascinating stuff.

I have recently started a "writer's diary" where I keep a rough blog of my work in progress. I've blatantly stolen the idea from Elizabeth Chadwick. I try to, daily, post the opening sentence of each chapter as I write it, then add the closing sentence at the end of the day. Apart from (hopefully) being of interest to my readers, I am finding it a very useful exercise in focussing on each chapter and it certainly aids motivation - I have got to write because tomorrow the next sentence will be expected. Although as Jo has me scheduled in for editing fairly soon, and my readers are all waiting for another Jesamiah adventure, maybe that is motivation enough?

While writing I listen to music. In addition to Bronwen Harrison, I've become besotted with Lisa Gerrard and Loreena McKennitt. Beautiful voices. One of Ms McKennitt's is based on the poem The Highwayman...

  The highwayman came riding,
  up to the old inn door

Its one of those stirring romantic poems. Bess the landlord's black eyed daughter is held hostage as bait to lure her lover - the Highwayman. She is tied and bound to the bedpost, a musket by her side - and rather than see her beloved captured, as she hears him approach she shoots herself. Full of drama, romance and suspense, I can't help thinking it would make a fantastic novel. My only query: seeing as muskets had to be loaded, primed and cocked before firing, how come Bess managed to kill herself? If I write the novel I can see more research ahead.

We have a little sadness at home. Our pony, Rosie, and our dog, Rum, are not well. Both are old now and feeling their age. It's hard when beloved pets are reaching the end of their life. We've had Rosie for sixteen years; she was Kathy's first pony, and Rum for ten years. He was rescued from being cruelly treated - at least with us he has had a loving and caring home and an enjoyable life. The decision to say goodbye to both of them will not be easy, particularly so close together, but I do not believe in animals suffering in order to ease our own pain. Difficult decisions are part of the responsibility of having animal friends.

As I write this it is pouring with rain. It is almost like autumn outside. I like autumn, the colours, the smells, but it is nice to have a summer first. Did I go to sleep for a month or so and miss it by chance? The garden is not helped by the fact that the guttering below the eaves of the roof was not fitted properly. Even I know that it is a good idea to fit two bits of guttering together in a straight, horizontal line. A kink, with one section higher than the other is not a good idea. Needless to say, where the drainpipe it, the whole thing has twisted and pulled apart. We now have a waterfall cascading from the roof every time it rains.

I found my poor geraniums frantically doing breaststroke in their pots. Geraniums are heat-loving Mediterranean plants. I don't think being half drowned is quite to their liking, On the other hand, the cucumbers in the greenhouse were lovely! Mab, the cat has taken to curling up there in the greenhouse. Warm and dry. Cats aren't daft are they?

Join me September 19th on Facebook and Twitter, where I will be using the above quote, somehow. Not sure how yet! It's a stolen quote of course, but what can you expect?

September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Arrrr! He's quite a quiet chap, keeps his powder dry.

I am getting a bit muddled with my memory. Several weeks running I have lost track of what day it is, forgotten things I was supposed to do, and even forgotten what I was talking about. Being blonde and rapidly approaching 60 probably has a lot to do with it - plus attempting too much, getting stressed, never having enough hours in the day la la la. but the situation is not helped by stretching my mental capacity over an expanse of several centuries.

I have almost finished the proof read of Shadow of the King In fact I would have finished it if my printer hadn't run out of ink, and all the local stores are out of stock. I prefer to do a final proof read check in hard copy, not on screen, for one thing it is easier on the eye, but it is a far better and efficient way of checking for errors. So I am firmly in the late fifth century reading that. I am thinking about Ripples In The Sand, plotting the next chapters and what is to happen, so I am wandering in and out of the early eighteenth century.

October is the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings; for two approaching weekends I am going to be in the eleventh century: at the King Harold Day, Waltham Abbey, Essex, and at Battle Abbey in Sussex for the weekend of 15th - 16th.

In between all that I sometimes have to function in the twenty-first century, dealing with bills, laundry, shopping and getting the car serviced prior to its MOT. No wonder I'm mixed up.

Time travel? Huh!

We've had trouble with the chickens. Mites. Horrid little things that look like moving full stops. They get into the wood of a coop, then breed like mad. They are parasites, and chickens can die from them - blood suckering Mite Vampires! Don't laugh, one thing they hate is garlic! Ron and I have had a heck of a job getting rid of the darn things. Spraying every day, which involves dressing in old clothes and stripping off afterwards straight into the shower. I have long hair, as many of you know, so I've resorted to wearing a mob-cap when venturing out to collect the eggs. I think we've won the battle, though, all seemed clear today. Yesterday we took down the wooden box inside the coop where the chickens roost and lay their eggs, and replaced it with plastic boxes. Plus we removed the wooden perches and put in plastic poles instead. Nancy, Norah and Nellie had better provide us with some decent eggs after all this.

I am not too happy with the amount of spiders that are around. I am not a great fan of spiders. I am of the opinion that this irrational fear of them is inherent in our DNA, left over from the days of when Mankind was first developing. After all, spiders were here with the dinosaurs, huge great brutes of things, a couple of feet across. None of them in the UK, nowadays are poisonous, so why do I shriek every time I walk into a cobweb stretched across the garden path? And why did I sit in my office, quaking like a jelly, when I realised there was a massive monster lurking on the wall next to the clock? It was all of three inches across. (see my Facebook Photo Album if you don't believe me!)

I was terrified when staying in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was calmly informed that if I was to see a Black Widow Spider to squirt it with hairspray and whack it with my shoe. Black Widow? Eek! I didn't sleep all night, convinced there was one under the bed. Thanks for that Jansy, Fiona and Susan!

My other theory is that spiders are aliens.

From my last newsletter, I am sad to report that we lost our pony Rosie. She was most unwell so we decided to have her put down. A hard decision, but the right one. A last service for beloved friends. Rum, however, is doing OK. He's lost his hearing and is a bit wobbly on his legs, but while he enjoys his walks and his life we will do what we can for him. His old tail keeps wagging, and as long as he is not in pain, we'll continue to help him through his old age.

A couple of new things: I have a blog dedicated to my Pendragon's Banner Trilogy. Articles, updates etc on the three books, and all Arthur things in general. Plus the wonderful new covers for the UK editions designed by Avalon Graphics - and {fanfare please} the video trailer for the books, again by Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics, with a fantastic soundtrack by Bronwen Harrison.

Cathy has been getting lots of work lately - book cover designs, trailers and such. Apart from being very talented she is a lovely lady, I'm so fortunate to have her helping me out with everything in the "graphic design" department; including the homepage of this website of course.

We 'met' because of my Arthur books. Cathy is an avid Arthurian Fan, and had read and loved the books. She e-mailed me, I e-mailed back, and eventually she plucked up courage to say she wasn't very impressed with the covers. 'Hah' I answered, 'neither am I, but I don't know any decent graphics designers who could do a better job'.

I do now!

So, Arthur, Jesamiah, Harold. The new Banner Trilogy books will be out next month, more about them then. Jesamiah is waiting patiently for me to get back to finishing Ripples - and Harold, well, I am gearing up to the two weekends of immersing myself firmly back in 1066. I'm doing the Public Address for King Harold Day, that should be fun, I'm looking forward to it. I am also looking forward to meeting old friends - and hopefully some new ones - down at Battle. See you there!

I know most of you are aware of this, but Harold is a firm hero of mine. He died defending his Kingdom against foreign invasion, the only King to do so. Yes, he lost the battle that fateful day of October 14th 1066, but for his memory I think this month's quote, taken from that excellent movie, Gladiator, is most suitable.

'What we do in life echoes through eternity' What we do in life echoes through eternity
The 'to do' list has shrunk somewhat, at last, although I have no doubt that it will soon expand again - keeping up with everything is getting harder as the months pass. I thought the daily things that need doing would have got easier when my husband retired. that was a myth soon scotched! I seem to have twice the things taking twice as long to attend to! It is nice having an on-hand butler who supplies me with cups of coffee or tea though.

The garden is falling to bits - in the sense that Autumn is now definitely upon us. Autumn flowers, autumn colours, a chill in the air, no more sitting out on the patio for breakfast or lunch.

The three hens are all laying beautifully, but I appear to have lost my lawn. It was not much of a lawn in the first place, more like a green patch with a few blades of grass, weeds and bald brown patches where the dog wees. The chickens have managed to decimate what little there was by scratching for worms and grubs. A hen's talons are pretty fiercesome things - it does not take much of a stretch of the imagination to understand that birds are direct descendents from dinosaurs - very similar, just somewhat smaller. Watching Nellie, Norah and Nancy on the hunt for whatever it is they hunt for is like watching a scene from the movie One Million Years BC - but without Raquel Welch in her very revealing animal skin.

I was watching an episode of QI (with apologies to anyone not in the UK; it's an amusing general knowledge sort of quiz show hosted by the delectable Stephen Fry) The question 'What came first, the chicken or the egg' was asked. For the life of me I can't remember the answer now. I'll just have to watch all the re-runs again won't I? Then there's the one 'Why did the chicken cross the road?' I can answer that - because it saw food. Talk about ravenous - they eat just about anything, except, in the case of our chooks, proper chicken feed.

Back in 2006 we were in the middle of coping with the fire and its aftermath at our previous house. As it has turned out, the event was a blessing in disguise as we now live in a much nicer house, but I still occasionally have nightmares about seeing a burning ceiling come down on top of my daughter's bed. Thank goodness it was Halloween and she was out partying.

I am delighted with the new covers for my Arthurian Trilogy. Cathy Harmon Helms of Avalon Graphics has done me proud - thank you Cathy. There have been several articles on the Internet lately about the importance of covers. The old saying 'You can't judge a book by its cover' is proving to be untrue - you can and you do. Especially now as many books are viewed and bought online, not physically in a bookstore. Covers are often reduced to a small size in the 'Net; detail is lost, and you have to grab someone's attention in a few nano-seconds. Therefore an instant eye-catching design is essential to encourage browsers to "click". I think - I hope - the new UK covers for the Kingmaking, Pendragon's Banner and Shadow of the King have hit the right note - er, click.

I am extremely fond of my Arthur novels, for lots of reasons; my first achievement, first novel, first experience as a published author - the list can go on, but there is a lot more to it than first this and that. I had wanted to write from a young teenager, moving from pony stories to science fiction and fantasy, then discovering historical fiction and the fact that Arthur was probably a post-Roman warlord, not a Medieval knight. This appealed to me as I have never had much liking or interest in the knights in armour and Holy Grail stories.

I was determined to achieve my dream and write my Arthur novel. It took me ten years to do it - not realising at the time that I had enough to make one and a half books of a trilogy. The thrill of it being accepted for publication is just too enormous to express - to actually see my work as a real book was so wonderfully exciting.

I spent hours writing, in longhand most of the time. Few people believed in me. The 'when I get my book published' was always greeted with a pained expression of disbelief. Proved them all wrong didn't I?

Re-editing Shadow of the King brought back memories as much of the research involved touring France and Brittany with my dear friend Hazel, who passed away ten years ago. I clearly remember walking up the hill at Vezelay with her in the sweltering heat, sitting on a wall at the top looking down at the walnut trees and marvelling at a beautiful lizard; of the beach at Carnac; the towns, the markets, walking together arm in arm up the hill at Avalon and looking over the wall at the river (its all there in Shadow). I miss her laughter and the shared gossip so much. Our hopes, plans and dreams. Of the things we were going to do together when we retired.

My Dad also missed out, because I wasn't accepted for publication until after he died. He loved sailing ships - he would have taken such delight in my Sea Witch stories. As a carpenter and expert model maker he made me a beautiful Thames Barge. I so wish he was here to make me a model of the Sea Witch.

But I have made new friends along the way, fellow authors, enthusiastic readers, my webmaster, and Cathy Helms. It has not been easy these eighteen years of being a published author, there have been many ups and downs, most of them ups, fortunately, and I am so grateful for all the help I've received along the way.

The quote at the top comes from The Kingmaking and was another thrill. Several years ago I was Googling for my name (we all do it!), and I found that someone had posted a quote from the book on cool quotes. I have no idea who that someone was, but the pleasure of discovering that particular quote has never faded, and is doubled as I write this because I've discovered that it is still there:

'Sometimes it was easier to swim with the current rather than fight against it. There was always a shallow pool somewhere ahead. Memories are like battles, and battles can go one way or the other. You can stand and fight, no matter what pains run from your wounds; or you can turn tail and run, knowing then that the enemy will follow and without mercy hunt you down. We had so many dreams as children. Where do they all go when we grow? Are they swallowed up by the mundane things of everyday life? Or do we lose them, leave them behind us in the dust, for new children to find and take up?'

I think new children find them and carry the dreams on, keeping them alive from generation to generation.

I do hope so, We had so many dreams as children. Where do they go when we grow?
Season's Greetings to all my friends and readers - although I can't believe that Christmas is here again so quickly. It seems only a couple of months ago that we took down all the decorations and put them away in their respective boxes.

I confess to be a fan of Yule Tide. I love making the house look all sparkly and pretty with tinsel and coloured lights - and yes, a real Christmas tree with, fingers crossed, presents underneath. We had a goose for dinner last year, and it was scrumptious, thanks to my daughter and husband's cooking. I can just about manage to make the turkey sandwiches for supper. I am no cook!

I'm not too keen on the chore of writing Christmas Cards and wrapping those presents mentioned above though. Why does the sticky tape always stick in the wrong places, and how do the scissors manage to disappear even though you know you put them down on the table next to you?

It has been nice these last few weeks to be able to look ahead to my work in progress writing and not have to concentrate on all that re-editing. With apologies to my editor, I'd rather not do any editing for at least a month!

To this end I have been getting on with Ripples In The Sand - albeit slowly. I've had earache on and off since the beginning of November and nothing seems to clear it. It's a poor excuse I know, but the the only truthful one I can come up with. I have had a new PC installed which also involved an upgrade to Windows 7 and therefore a new e-mail system. Oh what fun and games sorting that out was. still, I think I've got everything working as it should be working. Some of the functions that Outlook Express offered are not with Windows Live Mail, so getting used to doing things differently is not easy. Just hope I've understood all the important stuff and not deleted too many essential files.

One problem I had with Ripples: I needed to know how the people of Appledore in North Devon got across the river estuary at low tide to the opposite shore and the small town of Instow.

I left a message on Twitter and received several conflicting replies. Now OK, so when the tide is out there is a lot of beach, but, there is also a river, the Torridge, which even at low tide has some water in it. Maybe today because the channel is very clogged up people can walk across without getting too wet, but in Jesamiah's time, the year 1719, this would have been impossible as the channel was much deeper.

We know there was a ferry because the charter granted by King Charles II still exists, but I needed more detail. I assumed local squire and merchant John Benson - a real figure: his son Thomas became one of Devon's most notorious smugglers - would have his own boat to cross from where he lived at Knapp House, Northam, just behind Appledore. Maybe employing a servant, his own boatman. Which is how I originally wrote the scene.

But something nagged. It didn't feel right.

Surely these people didn't travel to Bideford, 3 miles away, cross the bridge and then travel another 3 miles back down the other bank to get to Instow when it was only a few minutes row away? I decided to consult a different research facility. The nearest we have to time-travel. The Akashic records.

Everything that happens leaves a "footprint" in the Akasa - the "energy" that binds and surrounds us. People with a certain gift can tap into this "echo" of the past, viewing as if watching a movie. Sound far-fetched? Have you never felt d�j� vu? Never felt that certain places - churches, old stone circles etc - have a distinct "atmosphere"? Well that's the Akasa and the Akashic records.

I personally think a lot of Historical Fiction authors are "tuned in" to this ability which is why we are so involved in our specific interest time periods.

Author Elizabeth Chadwick uses the Akashic Records a lot with her good friend Alison King. I met Alison in 2010 so I decided to re-contact her and book a session. Find out once and for all about the nagging problem of ferrying across the Torridge estuary. The session we had was fascinating and highly interesting - read the full report here.

I intend to follow up with further sessions because I firmly believe in Alison's ability to "look into the past". How much of what results ends up in my novels remains to be seen. I have to get back to writing this next one first!

And before I do that I have to finish off my tax return and then make the Christmas Cake and a chocolate log. I don't count that as cooking because spreading the chocolate is fun. And I like chocolate.

Happy Christmas! Save the Planet: it's the only one with chocolate