Lockdown Diary – 2020 – 30 – Another milestone

Anne by Marte Lundby Rekaa

The Big 30 – another milestone.

Today’s pic by professional photographer and chronicler of RNA events, Marte, was taken on the night of a party in London. Remember them? Remember when?

That was a milestone for me as it marked the publication of Mariah’s Marriage and its inclusion in the Joan Hessayon Award. Didn’t win, but such is the camaraderie of the RNA, we all felt like winners.

So, gave up on the WIP yesterday – meantime. There’s something still askew and I’m not seeing it. Moving on from that milestone, I’m going back into the 19th century where I’m well read and quite comfy.

News of two babies safely delivered yesterday. Thanks to electronic media there were lovely pics of one of them.

We finished the jigsaw. I made good progress with Bath Tangle. The sun shone. The lilacs in next door’s garden ar on the point of bursting.



Party, party,party

Writing is a solitary occupation.

Joan Hessayon contenders 2014

Joan Hessayon contenders 2014

That’ll be why Lin Treadgold is seen here, front centre, partying.

JK Rowling famously wrote in an Edinburgh café. I’ve written on stage sets when the actor needed extra words or different words. I’ve also written in a café, but I wouldn’t like readers to think I’m jumping on any bandwagons.

I did, too, rush to record my impression of arriving in Istanbul airport. It was busy with a returning pilgrimage and crowded with people in their pilgrimage clothes. Not a little surreal to be surrounded by large bearded gentlemen in pristine white robes. I needed to get the impression down.

But truly, the most common experience of writing is in a bubble of aloneness. Here’s Edinburgh JH contender, Jennifer Young.

Jennifer Young

Jennifer Young

A lot of dramatic work these days, particularly comedy scripting is collaborative. It’s really hard to go on thinking up fresh ideas, so having a buddy or buddies to test them against is a good thing. Here’s Helena Fairfax, glamorous in red, with friends.


Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax

As always, the Romantic Novelists’ Association put on a lovely evening at their Summer Party following the AGM. Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon in memory of his late wife, the Joan Hessayon award marks that moment when a writer ‘graduates’ from the New Writers’ Scheme into publication. I was a contender last year with Mariah’s Marriage and like the three ladies mentioned above, I wasn’t the winner on the night, but I had a wonderful time.

Party, party, party because tomorrow you return to the cave and solitary contemplation.

ps the winner in 2014 was Jo Thomas with The Oyster Catcher. Congratulations.

http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US
http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK
http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US
http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK



Happy Birthday Miss Mariah Fox

It’s One Year Today since MARIAH’S MARRIAGE was published by MuseItUp of Canada.

Muse Banner Mariah's Marriage

Muse Banner Mariah’s Marriage

Happy Birthday. Miss Mariah Fox.

In the months since Mariah hit the e-publishing shelves.my writing life has changed in so many ways. Here are a few:

Social Media I’ve been blogging for a very long time. I had a blog on Writelink’s site for months before Mariah was published and wrote short updates of my writing experiences and how the various anecdotes I quoted fitted into what I wrote next. I was never able to crack the posting of photos on there and that is the first change. I can do photos.Accolade for Mariah's Marriage at RNA summer party??????????????????????

The one above shows the 2013 line-up for the Joan Hessayon award in London. Mariah’s Marriage didn’t win but I had a wonderful evening. So much so, I’m going again this year to support several friends who are listed for 2014.

Change Number Two get along and say hullo. Whether it’s electronically such as on another writer’s blog, or in person, if you’re in a market, you need to be seen. I’ve almost got my pathological need to lurk under control.

Change Number Three Write another one. Surely you’re always doing that? you ask in surprise. Surely I am, but this ‘another’ one is the picking up of a character’s story from Mariah’s Marriage. It’s one of the most difficult writing tasks I’ve ever undertaken, but I completed, edited, agonised and pressed send a few weeks ago. Waiting to hear.

Change Number Four Participate. Before Mariah’s Marriage was published, I didn’t enter things like the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy competition at the annual conference of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, but this year I will. I didn’t join in blog hops (didn’t know there were blog hops). I knew nothing of Twitter and my Facebook a/c was languishing. Goodreads ?? Well, Mariah’s Marriage necessitated changes in attitude all right. It’s the shop front and the shelves need dressing.

A copy of Mariah’s Marriage is on offer to one person, randomly selected, who leaves a comment before Midnight UK time, 10th May 2014. I’d love to hear from you. Did full length publication make changes in your writing life? Anne


http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US
http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK
http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US
http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK



Siem Riep Temples weren’t built in a Day

Temple, Siem Riep

Temple, Siem Riep

As I read through the draft of a critiqued submission to the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, my admiration for the readers grows. it takes a particular type of generosity to spend the time and energy needed with beginners’ work. I thought this book was the best it could be when I sent it in a few years ago.

Goodness, wasn’t I wrong?

It’s not a bad book. It has two wonderful central characters. It has a supporting cast of well drawn people and the reader thought only one verged on pantomime. It has few historical errors. It has plot, colour, historical detail, horses, frocks and interesting ideas.

It has a Voice and it’s well written in good grammatical English.


…and that’s where the particular skills and generosity of the Readers comes into play…

,,,it isn’t good enough. She helped me understand that.

Some temples are bigger and more decorated than others. Some temples have stood the blast of time. They weren’t built in a day and neither can a writing career be. Early blueprints need refinement.

As the year comes round to the RNA’s Summer party and the Joan Hessayon Award short list for first time published romance writers whose book went through the scheme, I remember that. My book, Mariah’s Marriage was a contender last year.

Bella’s Betrothal was not in the scheme, but it couldn’t have happened without that first one. A third novel has gone out for consideration and in the meantime, I’m getting on with the next.


http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US
http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK
http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US
http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK




JENNY BARDEN: Author Interview: Mistress of the Sea

Jenny (Portrait 1) pix

Jenny Barden, fellow RNA member and Joan Hessayon Award contender, has dropped in today to answer the Novels Now author questions. We’re lucky to catch her as she’s very recently back from Florida.
Welcome, Jenny.
Qu) Like many other great inventions, the e-reader has taken off. Do you read in both electronic and paper mediums? Which do you prefer?

Ans)I have a Kindle but I still much prefer to read a traditional paper book. I find the whole experience of reading much more satisfying with ‘tree books’ – I like the smell of the paper, the feel of it under my fingers, and the ability to flip back and forth instantly to consult maps, glossaries or references to earlier chapters. I find reading from paper much easier on my eyes – I’m not struggling to adjust the light, get rid of shadow or reduce glare. It’s going to take a very special kind of ereader to wean me away from traditional books heart and soul – though my Kindle is very useful for travelling and keeping down weight in luggage! I see the future as being big enough for both, and I think that there’ll always be a place for paper books amongst book lovers and collectors, though I also think that the market for ebooks will continue to grow – they have provided an opportunity for reaching out to more people with more books and that’s got to be good.

Qu) Do you travel to find locations or do you use the ability to go anywhere in the imagination, to do just that?

Ans)I love to travel to the places where my fiction is set, and I will always try my best to get as close as possible on the ground to the locations that form the backdrops to my stories. Of course there are two obvious difficulties with this for me since my fiction is set over four hundred years ago and much of it involves voyages by sea. The identifiable places on land have often changed beyond all recognition from how they used to be in the Elizabethan era, and the precise routes of sea voyages cannot be pinpointed very accurately – indeed, from a storyteller’s perspective, there would be little to gain from doing so (the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Verde looks much the same as the Atlantic Ocean off the Azores!). But familiarity with the ‘location’ of being inside an Elizabethan ship is crucial to me, so I’ve been inside replicas such as the Golden Hinde reconstruction near London Bridge several times (in fact I’ve given talks and signings there) and I’ve had experience of sailing over the years. In researching Mistress of the Sea I travelled to Panama as well as to Plymouth, and I walked the routes that my characters would have taken insofar as I could find them. That meant travelling along stretches of the old Camino Real – the ‘Royal Road’ by which Spanish bullion from South America was transported overland by mule-train across the isthmus. (There’s a piece about that here for anyone interested: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/el-camino-real-path-worn-through-time.html ) It also meant taking a boat around the San Blas archipelago: the white coral islands that formed a secret hideaway for Francis Drake and his men before their raid on the Spanish ‘silver train’, and it meant trying to find the site of the old town of Nombre de Dios now lost under sand or swallowed by the sea. I still went there.

Guns of San Lorenzo

Guns of San Lorenzo

<It was important to me to be where the city of my story once stood.

Qu) What is the most important physical sense of your current heroine? (Taste, touch, sight,hearing or smell)
Ans)Sight is of crucial importance to most description and I'd be disingenuous to suggest that it didn't underpin most of Ellyn Cooksley's impressions about her surroundings, but in terms of what really strikes straight at her emotions then I think smell is the sense that has the most profound and immediate impact. There's a scene in Mistress of the Sea in which Ellyn is imprisoned in the small dark attic room of a garrison behind a bolted door with shutters over the window. She can see little but her other senses are heightened. There is one man she fears above all others: Bastidas, the commander of the garrison, and she can smell him in the room because he wears perfume like a woman. The scent of ambergris is far more potent as a threat than the sight of him which comes later…

Qu) Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Ans That's really difficult to answer; if I could have the dependability of Mr Knightley together with the daring-do of Richard Sharpe then that would be my ideal – as long as he had the sensitivity and intelligence of Captain Corelli as well!

You've given us lots to think about there, Jenny. Now, will you share a short extract of your current book/story with Novels Now, please?

Short extract follows (from Chapter 19 of Mistress of the Sea):Mistress of the Sea pbk

Will clasped the little bells in his fist. He did not want them jingling as he brushed by to enter the hut. He could see Ellyn was asleep. So he edged inside; then he settled on a chest from where he could watch her quietly. She sat with her head down, neck arched and turned to one side, eyes closed, lips parted. He took off his cap. He would share a moment with her, and the Cimaroon outside would make sure they were not disturbed. The fort was noisy but, in the place that gave her some privacy, a sense of calm made the hubbub seem less. She had only been on Slaughter Island a few days, and in that time she had hardly relaxed. He was glad to see her resting. Whatever trauma she had been through, rest would help in healing. He was content just to be near her; he would never tire of that.
The pleasure he took in being with her was like waking up in summer time, in England, beneath a bright, cloudless sky. She was a landscape entire. Her body was curved like the coombes and there was promise in her folds. He thought of soft paths through meadow grass leading to field-strips of barley. He looked at her lips, red as poppy petals: lips he had kissed and would kiss again. Merely the imagining was enough to stir him. She was the heartache of home – yearning and joy all rolled into one.
He gazed at her face. No other woman could be as lovely. His blessing was to be with her as she was at that moment, in a time that was his, without sense of its passing. Asleep, her face moved. Her eyelids quivered and her lips curled slightly. She gave a little shudder and took a quick breath. He wondered where she was in her dreams; whatever the place, he would have liked to have joined her. She frowned, rolling her head, and he reached out to calm her. Suddenly she was awake, eyes open and fixed on him.
‘Will! What are you doing here?’
‘Considering you.’ He smiled. ‘Thinking how fair you are.’
‘Flattery will not excuse you. I prefer to invite people into my house.’ She frowned, plainly flustered, and brushed back her hair. ‘What did you see?’
‘You were asleep.’
‘I was pondering.’
‘You were pondering with your mouth open just so.’ He made a little ‘O’ with his lips as if he was blowing a bubble, but he had only mimicked her for an instant before she slapped her hand over his mouth.
‘Will Doonan, you are a heartless, mocking jackanapes. How could you think me fair if I was pouting like a fish?’
He pulled her hand away and kissed it.
‘As easily as I think you fair when in truth you are dark.’
‘So I am not fair?’
At that he reached for her and pulled her to him on his lap.
‘No, not fair at all; so unfair that I expect no justice. You wrong me, sweet maiden.’
‘I wrong you!’
‘Yes,’ he said, kissing her, ‘you do.’ He did not try to put his feelings into words; he doubted that he could, and he feared that if he did then she would only pick whatever he said to pieces. He simply kissed her again.
His reward was her laughter, and her arms around his.
Links are:

•Mistress of the Sea on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1bUzhYI

•my website: http://www.jennybarden.com/
•Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennywilldoit

•Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennybardenauthor
•Blogs are on other sites eg: http://historicalnovelsociety.org/diana-gabaldon-takes-time-out-from-packing-for-the-hns-conference-in-florida-to-quiz-fellow-delegate-jenny-barden-about-her-paperback-debut-mistress-of-the-sea/ and : http://whimsandtonic.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/then-and-now-jenny-barden-author-of-mistress-of-the-sea/
•Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6438523.Jenny_Barden


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Mariah's Marriage

“I thought it time to break the habit of having women fall at your feet. I am convinced it cannot be good for your character,” she said.

copyright anne stenhouse

The manuscript for Mariah’s Marriage, was presented to the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association in 2011. It was critiqued by a published writer, I don’t know who, and returned to me with suggestions. I made changes and trawled it. After Mariah was taken by MuseItUp, I became eligible for full membership of the RNA and she became a contender for the Joan Hessayon award.

The Joan Hessayon Award is supported by Dr David Hessayon in memory of his late wife, Joan, who was a long-standing member of the RNA. There are nine contenders in this year’s crop. You can view us all here:


The award winner will be announced on Thursday 16th May at the RNA’s summer party. Win or lose, the scheme has been wonderful for me and Mariah. I commend it and thank my reader most warmly.

Mariah’s Marriage is a contender. RNA Joan Hessayon Award

I’ve known Mariah was a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award of the Romantic Novelists’ Association for some time. There was, however, a press embargo so I wasn’t able to share. The RNA press officers have now lifted the embargo and details of the nine contenders can be read here:


I hope you’ll drop in and see the other eight books.

So, the train tickets, the hotel room, the dress, oh and what else is important when romance writers get together?

That’s it – the shoes. I’ll keep you posted.