It lives!!!!

Yes, gentle reader, I am alive. I have not quit writing. Although after the blood, mud and thumping sado-masochism that was the end of Marston Moor (what, pray, is thatt last? is it a cavallrie thing? – H)

– no, Hollie, it’s not gonna be invented for a good two hundred years after your time and you SO don’t want to know. Trust me, I’m the author.

Anyway. That.

So Babylon will be released in May and I’m having April OFF.

If you’d like me to post updates on the making of a pair of watered-silk 1660s stays, Anglo-Saxon cooking, the bluebells at Trerice and which end of a mouse Whiskers has just kindly provided, please comment!

Strong Women

Inner Grace

I did not march today with the women in London protesting against President Trump with his locker room talk and pussy grabbing. Instead I was working a twelve and a half hour shift as an Emergency Medicine Specialty Doctor in the only Emergency Department in the county.


Every time I see a patient, I introduce myself and tell them quite clearly that I am their doctor. Despite this, on pretty much every single shift I work I will on multiple occasions then be called ‘nurse.’ I will have patients complain that they have not yet seen a doctor despite me having seen them, examined them, started treatment and told them their ongoing management plan. I will be told that they have already seen the doctor, referring to the male nurse who triaged them. I have been explicitly told before that men are doctors and women are nurses, had patients exclaim…

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Mortuary Swords

Lucky you! Mine is a replica – although it’s also seen quite a lot of action 🙂

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Basic cut-and-thrust broadswords favoured by cavalry officers and used throughout the Civil Wars were made in England between 1625 and 1670.  They had a wooden or corded grip,  a metal basket-hilt to protect the hand and usually a two-edged blade between thirty-three and thirty-four inches long.  In 1645, two hundred of them were made for the New Model Army at a cost of five shillings each – hard to believe these days.

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The main point of interest in these swords lies in the basket-hilt.  These were frequently decorated in some form or other; a coat-of-arms, a man in armour, intricate patterns of leaves – presumably whatever the purchaser wanted and was willing to pay extra for.  (It is reasonable to assume that the five-shilling ones, being mass-produced, were plain.)
But following the execution of Charles l in January 1649, a new trend was born.  Basket-hilts started to be engraved with…

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Practising Writing Gratitude

Two years ago, I hit “publish” on Red Horse, and I thought that was going to be it, all over and done with. The cover was awful, it hadn’t been properly edited or formatted, but it didn’t matter – I’d written it, and I loved it.

And I still love it. I am still more than a little bit in love with Captain Hollie Babbitt (even when he was as mad as Russell) and Lucey still makes me smile and I still cry a bit at the idea of the rain falling on the dead of Edgehill and what Hollie does about it.
(And of course, I thumb my nose at the Palatinate Pest. Always.)

But of late, I’ve started to feel that it’s not – I’m not – enough.

There were a few of us who, so to speak, graduated 1642 together: palled around together on-line, messaged each other, wrote anthologies together. Supported each other. And some of us have gone off and some of us are still ploughing the 1640s furrow and some of us don’t really write at all any more.
It’s not a competition. Reading someone’s review of a 2016 in which some really quite horrid things happened and skipping to where they say what articles they published in what magazine and thinking – I’m going to submit to them.I’m going to do that,like some kind of historical barracuda. (Shiny! Shiny!)

My friend’s book was reviewed in the TLS. Did I think huzzah! Well done? – or did I think how can I do that?
Friends have been Kindle bestsellers, and I wasn’t happy for them, I was looking for ways to copy them instead.
Well, Entertaining Angels was #1 for the better part of a month. Am I proud? Am I happy? No – I’m prowling round looking for ways to carry on promoting it, to keep pushing it beyond its natural shelf life.
Publishing contract? Yes. Wonderful. Now I want another one, a better one. Richard and Judy time. Prime time. More awards. More reviews. More sales. Always more, more, more.

I was chatting to one of my friends earlier. She was impressed that I’d sold something like five thousand copies of Angels in three months. Did I say – thank you? Yes, it is a good little book, isn’t it? No, I dismissed it. Not good enough. It pretty much sells itself.

I had a lovely review of Red Horse over Christmas and it pulled me up, rather.

Five thousand copies of a book in three months, a hundred new followers a day, Times Literary Supplement glowing reviews…they’re all great,aren’t they? But someone laughed out loud at the grumpy exchanges between Hollie Babbitt and Luce Pettitt, and that’s worth just as much. Someone cried over a shy middle-aged intelligence officer’s friendship with a girl, and that’s worth its weight in gold. Someone is talking to me about the Arundells of Trerice as if they’re real, living people, and that’s priceless too.

My success is mine. Your success doesn’t detract from mine, and nor should it add to it, trying to cover myself in a little reflected glory.
Two years ago I would have been happy with that review for its own sake: not for the status, not for the ranking, but because someone liked my book.
And that’s my New Year’s resolution.
I may not write every day. I may not be committed. I may not be professional.
But I will be happier.

Spring, and tulips

I know it’s only January 2nd, but that’s all right, here in west Cornwall it’s almost half past four and it’s still daylight and I have seen the sun today, so as far as I’m concerned it’s spring.

Next month I will be in Brugge, in pursuit of the Russells. (And, in passing, in pursuit of a young Hollie Babbitt in Amsterdam. I don’t know quite how he’d feel about the Kalverstraat now. When he lived there – and he lived in Amsterdam for a goodly part of his adult life, poor lamb – the Kalverstraat was the flesh-market, it was the place you went for the spring and autumn beast sales. It was where he bought his black horse Tyburn, as a two year-old, for a ridiculously small sum of money. Yes, Tib was bought as meat on the hoof. It’s the posh end of Amsterdam now – the touristy end.)

It’s a funny thing: one of the things that grieves me about modern gardening is how low-maintenance it is, one can either have scent or beauty but not usually both, and everything is meant to be easy to grow and easy to care for, and in the days of Tulipmania men sold small wrinkled bulbs for the price of a small estate , and it was the work of a team of gardeners to care for them as if they were babies. (The tulips, that is, not the gardeners.),

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This beauty is Amiral de Constantinople, one of the only two varieties of parrot tulip to survive from the seventeenth century.

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And this is Zomerschoon – and this is the painting by Balthasar van der Ast of the Zomerschoon tulip of the height of Tulipmania.

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And this – the Tulip Museum – is where I’m headed for an afternoon in Februar.

Wish me luck….