Category Archives: New Release

Marked to Die: medieval mystery with hints of Richard Armitage

Third in a series of medieval murder mysteries, Marked to Die has just been released by historical fiction author Sarah Hawkswood. Sarah’s writing is superb. The historical details she weaves into her narrative sweep the reader into the atmosphere of the era from the very first page.
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Sarah shares with us how words transport us into realms of imagination, and how a certain British actor with a sultry voice inspires her writing:
Computer. Keyboard. Action.

Fiction writing is words, but it is about images and emotions. When we read we are looking at typeface or a pen’s strokes, but we are ‘seeing’ the images those words create in our minds, feeling the emotions they initiate. Factual writing informs, moulds ideas, gives frameworks of knowledge, but fiction is about imagination. Our brains are stimulated not by the letters S U N S ET but an image of a sunset that the letters spark; the word on the page frees us from time, space, the limitations of our own abilities, and I think it can give our minds as good a ‘workout’ as a challenging sodoku or crossword puzzle. When we learn to read, the magical point is when the mind is not applying itself to the task of spelling out the letters into a word, but when it does that automatically and is freed to gambol in the wide fields of imagination.

So a novel takes one away from that cramped seat on the train with the stranger next to you jiggling slightly as they listen to the music in their earphones; the wet winter’s afternoon with a pile of ironing still to do; the snoring spouse; the everyday and humdrum. It should take you away as you read it, and it takes me away as I write. Writing as a profession, even when giving up ‘the day job’ would be impossible, has its stresses. There are days when each word emerges reluctantly, deadlines that run towards one like a charging rhino, but it is also, to me, as much escapism as reading.

When I write, I see, I feel, I hear, I taste and smell. I am there, in a world bounded only by imagination, given structure by history, given motion by plot and character. I see every scene as though through a film lens, with the ability to view the rushes immediately, move the scenery, set the actors new marks, change their lines without them throwing a hissy fit, and tweak it until it feels natural, yet crafted and as close to perfection as possible.The only difference to film is there is no Hans Zimmer or Howard Shore adding a score to it.

In this way of writing, casting is important. It does not mean that everyone in my books is based upon a particular person, actor or otherwise. Many are broad brushstrokes, ‘a small, motherly woman with deep crow’s feet at the corners of laughing grey eyes’ is casting, even if there is no name. However, real people can be a huge help, especially with major characters, even if it is one aspect of a person, a mannerism or tone of voice. Having a specific person also gives continuity, though after a while their presence is second nature. It also avoids the danger that if a character is made up of elements from too many people the author is creating not something natural but a Frankenstein’s monster. The mix may be infelicitous, show all the suture lines and fall apart before the denouement. By the same token, sticking rigidly to every aspect of one person is just teleporting a clone into your story. A muse is, I feel, a dangerous thing, a limitation.

At which point, as an author who has also been a member of the C19 Forum, I hold up my hand and admit that ‘casting’ a certain Mr Armitage, to various degrees, has been a joy. He is wonderful to work with because of the quality of his acting, the way he subsumes whoever he really is into the character he is becoming; he also has little mannerism that are easy to give as tell tales to a character, so that in a given situation the character will do a certain move of the hand, lift of the brow.

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The Bradecote and Catchpoll 12th century murder mysteries are into their third book on shelves, and I am ahead of the game and writing number nine in the series. I long ago reached the point where I do not have to think how any of the detecting trio will react in a scene because I know them so well. It makes writing interchanges and situations very easy and natural, and though the plot and the dialogue thread, are down to The Words, the story in my head, how they appear on paper is hugely influenced by me ‘watching them’ as I write, letting their voices guide the phrases, the nuances. Hugh Bradecote has been about 85% Mr Armitage since the first revision of the very first book, Servant of Death (though it first saw print as The Lord Bishop’s Clerk). I have been writing Bradecote, Catchpoll, and the third member of their triumvirate, Serjeanting Apprentice Walkelin, for over a decade and they are ‘my boys’. Do I consciously think ‘ah another few hours watching Richard Armitage’ when I settle to write? No, I do not, because it is just the way it is, habitual, normal. Besides, I did not see Mr Armitage when I was privileged to see The Crucible at The Old Vic in London; I only saw John Proctor. The gentleman might not appreciate being kidnapped for my purposes, even 85% of him, but he would appreciate that I am not watching R. C. Armitage but Hugh Bradecote, one subsumed into another.

Of course the reader need not know my casting, may cast for themselves, interpret characters slightly differently, because the writing has evoked different images, but if you are told, and you like watching a certain actor . . .

I account myself a very lucky woman. I have The Words (even if occasionally the wrong Words crowd my head and I have to stop what I am writing and set down fifteen thousand for a short story that will never be read except on my computer), and I have a strong imagination. The icing on the cake is that in my ‘world’ I have been able to watch a certain long stride and mobile brows, hear a certain baritone voice, for hundreds of hours not in the canon of his work, and running through what is thus far, over three quarters of a million words. Feel free to join me.

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Marked to Die, the third of Sarah Hawkswood’s Bradecote and Catchpoll novels, is out in hardback (US 2 November 2017) and ebook, published by Allison & Busby.

For more information on Sarah Hawkswood and her work visit her website at: bradecoteandcatchpoll.com
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Visit Lyme Regis through “Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café” series.

Legacy Armitage fan Georgia Hill has recently released book two of a charming romantic series. She’s excited to share a little background on her latest series with fellow period drama lovers:

Huge thanks to The Armitage Authors Network for inviting me on again!

I’ve been busy writing a series of novellas. They’re about Millie and her battle to save her seaside café business. The newest one is the second in the Millie Vanilla set of novellas:
Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café Summer Loves. I loved writing these books as I really enjoyed creating the town of Berecombe and its inhabitants. It’s a completely fictional place but is loosely based on Lyme Regis, which is a little seaside town on the south coast of England, in Dorset.

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New Release: A Knight to the Rescue

Legacy fan Elizabeth Hanbury has recently released her 7th novel. Liz writes delightful Regency romance stories with wit and humor. I’ve read all her works, and I’m excited there’s a new short story to read — just in time for summer vacation!

This publication is special in it’s intention, however. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Crohn’s MAP Vaccine fund, a charity based at King’s College, London researching a cure for Crohn’s Disease.

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Life is a song, but love is the music…

Life is hard for Jessica Smeaton in Regency Bath. She lives in a shabby lodging house and struggles to survive on what she earns from teaching music, hoping that one day the waltzes she composes will sell.

When handsome artist Richard Knight moves into the room above, things start off on the wrong note but could he turn out to be her knight to the rescue?

And here’s a teaser from the opening pages…

The knocking from above didn’t disturb her at first. She was so absorbed in her composing.

The second bout of knocking wrenched her mind out of her music.

The third and much louder series of knocks rang in her ears and sent a hum of indignation flowing through her veins. A stream of plaster dust drifted down from above and settled on the music manuscript in front of her. Jessica jumped up from her battered pianoforte, raised her eyes to the ceiling and uttered a growl of fury.

This was too much. The unseen brute in the room above (no woman could knock with such disdain) disliked her playing and was letting his feelings be known using the heel of his boot. She was vaguely aware of a new tenant had moved in a week or more ago but she had not yet met the person. She was too busy earning a meagre living and now he was banging the floor to complain about her playing. How insulting!

Jessica walked back to her pianoforte, flexing her fingers. Defiantly, she struck the keys as hard as she could.

The reply from above was not long in coming: ban, bang, bang!

Slowly and deliberately she closed the lid. Heat seeped into her cheeks and she tilted her chin: the light of battle had entered her soul. She’d had a dreadful week and now this. Enough was enough. Stopping only to tidy her hair in the mirror and make sure she had no plaster dust on her face, she wrenched open the door, crossed the hallway and started to climb the stairs. For once she dod not notice the peeling paintwork and faded wallpaper of the rambling old lodging house. 

Jessica didn’t consider the impropriety of tackling the idiot in his lair. The landlady Miss Cardew took an unconventional and bohemian attitude to stifling society rules. She believed it helped her tenants” artistic muse to deal with each other as they saw fit with only a few rules to keep the right side of respectable Bath society, the lodging house being tucked away in a quiet street off Queen Square. Miss Cardew loved to encourage artists and offered low rents to such types, for which Jessica was extremely grateful.

Today even the benignly vague Mis Cardew would have scuttled our of the way and felt a pang of pity for the wretch about to get a piece of Jessica’s mind. She reached the door and was tempted to bang on it with her clenched first, but her old teacher’s edict to always be a lady no matter what provocation is offered flashed before her and instead she drew a steadying breath, tapped firmly and waited.

‘Come in,’ said a voice.

She was forced to admit it was a very pleasant, silky voice even if its owner lacked an taste in music.

Jessica entered. The room was scantily furnished, as were most of the rooms in Miss Cardew’s lodging house.  A few threadbare rugs were scattered over the floor. A small fire burned in the grate. Paints and Brushes were spread out over the table under the large window, through which streamed a bright afternoon sun. Various canvases were popped up around the walls. In the centre was an easel, behind which Jessica could see top boots and a pain of breeches covering muscular thighs.

Distracting. Very distracting.

She pulled herself together. ‘I have come–‘ began Jessica.

‘I don’t need any models at present. You can leave your card on the table,’ announced the silky voice.

She felt her cheeks grow pinker, her indignation deepen. ‘I am not a model,’ she said in icy tones, ‘I cam to–‘

At this the brute emerged from behind his easel, wiping his hands. Jessica stared, her mouth falling open a little.

She might have guessed how it would be. Fate delights in playing tricks. Not only did The Brute have a voice as smooth as hot chocolate, he had  devilishly handsome exterior. Broad shouldered and of athletic build, along with the breeches, he wore a white shirt with sleeves rolled up the elbows to reveal strong forearms sprinkled with soft dark hair. his shirt was splattered here and there with paint and open at the neck to reveal a tantalising glimpse of chest hair. He was clean-shaven but his colouring meant late afternoon stubble was already shading his jaw. Beautiful brown eyes were fixed on her in a disconcerting manner. His hair was disheveled and standing up on end as if he had run his fingers through it often. Jessica felt an inconvenient urge to do the same, admitting to herself that he was one of the most attractive men she had ever seen. She might be furious but she was always fair.

I think Liz must have been remembering a certain train scene as she wrote this!

For more about Liz Hanbury’s long history as an Armitage fan, check out our earlier interview with her  here and her post about North and South‘s ten year anniversary here.