Work in Progress

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08 Jan 2016 Starting from Scratch

starting-from-scratch

A lot has happened, and you know what? I’m just going to draw a line under it and start, as my dear mother used to say, from scratch.

 

I’ve put The Taste of Cloves aside for the moment. I will always love the sixteenth century—the Renaissance, that turning point between the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason—but fiction set in the sixteenth century seems to be “out” at the moment. Particularly if it’s set in England. More particularly if it involves Anne Boleyn in any way. So my dear Mary Talbot and her beautiful white hunting hounds and her anguished triangle with Harry Percy and Anne B. will have to simmer on the back burner for a while. What goes around comes around, and her time will come another day. Simmering often makes things better, after all.

 

In the meantime, I’m pecking away (another of my mother’s phrases) at a fabulous new project that’s not really like anything I’ve written before. Well, in a way I suppose it is, because I’ll always write about love and courage and beauty and the ultimate significance of the human spirit. But this has a contemporary setting (well, mostly contemporary—even the modern day always has underpinnings of history) and a distinctly Gothic flavor. It doesn’t have a title yet. We’ll see. I don’t have a lot of time to write these days, but I always have to have something to be working on. Something new. Something started from scratch.

 

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04 Mar 2015 …And What the Inspiration Hath Wrought

© The British Library Board

Image © The British Library Board

Last week I posted about the Felbrigge Psalter, and how it inspired part of my new book in progress. Here’s a tiny snippet incorporating part of what that inspiration produced:

 


 

What will become of the book when I am gone? I have no daughter to leave it to. Ah, well, the direct line of mother-to-daughter has been broken before, and will be broken again, and the book will go on. It is not the blood that counts, but the fact that we have all been women, from the first of us to the last. We have all added something, words from those of us who could write, drawings from those unlettered, pressed herbs and flowers, stains and spatters from long-ago batters and sauces, ground grains of spices sifted into the paper itself. The book was a psalter at first, the Little Hours of the Virgin bound in embroidered linen three hundred years ago and more. Now the original pages have been mostly scraped and overwritten and new pages sewn and pasted in and interleaved. It has become a book about tasting, about cookery and herbalism and women’s magic. What are the Little Hours of the Virgin, after all, but ancient women’s magic?

 


 

I’m fretting about the rhyming “spatters” and “batters,” but so far I haven’t been able to come up with a suitable word to replace one or the other. The speaker here, by the way, is on her deathbed in 1572, which is why she describes the book as being three hundred years old.

 

There’s much more, of course. The working title for this book is The Taste of Cloves, and it has a contemporary storyline woven in with the historical storyline, which is a first for me. But somehow it just happened. Inspiration is funny that way…

 

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21 Feb 2015 Inspiration

Felbrigge Psalter

 

You just never know when something is going to drop a seed into your subconscious, and then when you least expect it, burst forth with an idea. For example, a while ago I came across some articles on a 13th-century psalter with an embroidered cover, which is in fact the oldest known English embroidery on a book. The book still exists, in the British Library. Here are some more details:

 

The Felbrigge Psalter

 

What if, though, such a book had not found its way into a museum, but had instead been passed down secretly from woman to woman. lovingly preserved, added to and un-written and re-written through the centuries? What if…

 

Well, there are more what-ifs. Lots of them. Next week sometime I’ll post an actual snippet from my work-in-progress, describing my fictional version of the Felbrigge Psalter.

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10 Feb 2015 Books Can Be Characters, Too

Photo Credit: Sandwich Town Council.

Photo Credit: Sandwich Town Council.

A central “character” in the new novel I’m working on is a 700-year-old psalter/scrapbook that has been passed down lovingly and carefully through twenty-four generations of (not always related) women. So you can imagine my fascination and delight to read this morning that researchers have found a 700-year-old copy of the Magna Carta stuck in a Victorian scrapbook in the county of Kent, England. So papers, and by extension even a whole book, can survive (if in a somewhat tattered condition) for hundreds of years outside museums! This lovely, quirky story has made my day.

 

Amazing! Original Magna Carta Copy Found in Scrapbook

 

Will share more about my own wonderful old (fictional) book later on.

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