York: Roman, Medieval, Viking. And geese.

I lived in York for three years during college. It’s a beautiful city, small and full of history. My degree was a joint effort in history and archaeology and it was a privilege to just be able to wander round and soak up all the different eras.

I kept a narrow focus on medieval Britain in my studies and retrospectively I wish I’d been more open to learning about other parts of the world. There seemed so much to learn about my own country though – and I wanted to know it all.

I have very little interest in Kings-and-Queen type history, or even political history. It’s the day to day minutiae that interests me. What did people eat for breakfast? How did they repair their shoes? How did you keep warm in winter? How long did it take to walk from one place to another? York is chock-full of museums, you can’t chuck a rock without hitting one. And they’re all fascinating. But the things that fascinate me most are the little things. The faces on the gargoyles and grotesques in the Minster – are they carved in anyone’s likeness? How long did each one take to make? Or taking a walk along the walls or down The Shambles and thinking about all the people over the last couple of thousand years who have done the same. What were they thinking? Where were they going?

Pondering these questions in part has led me to where I am writing today. I like writing about people, rather than situations. Yes, my stories have situations in them, because doh, that’s life. But it’s how my characters work things out, how they deal with the day to day minutiae of living that drives me forward.

Despite all its grandeur and all its opportunity for historical and archaeological research, my main memory of York is of the waterfowl on the university campus grounds.

That’s social history for you. Forget the cathedral. It’s too big to carry with me. Let me take away my pictures of the geese.

character sketch: Lew Tyler

This is the first in a series of occasional character sketches I’m going to do.

Lew Tyler is one of the main characters in both Lost In Time and Shadows On The Border, books one and two of the Lost In Time series. I think he’s probably going to pop in and out of future stories as well.

Lew was born in the UK in 1983 and when we first meet him at the beginning of Lost In Time, he has just been jettisoned back in time from 2016 to 1919.

One of the things I wanted to do with the story is contrast the experience of someone age thirty-three in 2016 with the experience of someone of a similar age in 1919, and I was quite happy with how that worked out.

Lew is a rather reluctant magician who can manipulate the fabric of time and space and the void between the worlds. He gets sucked back through time as part of his search for his friend Mira, who Lew assumes is missing because she over-reached her magical abilities. Lew tried to use his own magic to track her and ended up in London just after World War One. It took him a while to find his feet – he was very lucky – and he ended up with two jobs that overlap – a journalist and photographer at a small weekly London paper and as a police crime-scene photographer. This allows him to poke around London quite easily in his search for his friend and his unexpected bequest of a motorbike early on in the book helps that a lot too.

He’s not actually a very good or knowledgeable magician. He and Mira met in foster care after his parents died when he was in his early teens. Although his father was a magic user, Lew didn’t have enough time with him and neither he nor Mira have had any kind of mentoring or training. They’re flying blind and that’s why things have gone wrong.

Lew is a kind and open person. But he’s also scared of people finding out his secrets – both that he’s from the future and that he’s gay – and he feels very alone at the start of the books. As the series goes on, he settles in to himself, but I can’t say too much more about that without spoilers!

What does he look like? He’s five foot ten, with high boned cheeks, long-ish fair hair that he tries to keep slicked back from his face, but that usually falls in to his eyes. He’s sinewy rather than built. He’s got dark brown eyes that are shot through with lighter hazel and when he’s pulling power, the hazel bits take on a golden colour. He’s quite empathic, probably because of the magic, and finds it difficult to filter out other people’s emotions unless he’s concentrating hard. That can be helpful if he’s working magic, but a nuisance the rest of the time.

I really like the overall feel of the artwork JMS has done for the series. I feel that that they give a good feel for the characters and the world. In my head, Lew is the man at the back hiding under the rather large hat.

 

 

 

work in progress: The Flowers Of Time

Currently laboring under the title ‘The Flowers Of Time’, my work in progress is set the Himalayas in the 1780s and follows the adventures of Edith and Jones, respectively a lady botanical illustrator and a non-binary archaeologist, who take on more than they bargain for as they come up against The Border during their travels.

“Shall we go down?” Edie asked. It had been a two hour ride. She could do with a break before returning to camp. “Are we going to relocate the camp up here for a few days?”

“Perhaps. I want to see what he was exploring. In the notebook he writes about chambers in the hillside that he thought were used as dwellings. But after Mama… he didn’t write any more.”
Edie bit her lip. “Are there still bandits around here? Is it safe?”

Jones patted her hip. “I have my pistols, don’t worry. And Sonam reckoned that the new King in Leh is still vested in making the roads safer. It was getting better even before I left and when we were planning back in Srinagar, he said that trade is increasing along the Silk Route again because of the regular patrols. And we have Marcus.” She gestured at the dog.

Edie wished she had Jones’ easy confidence. She turned Donna’s head down the animal-track that Jones was following, watching Jones’ easy seat in the saddle, feet braced against the slope. Edie couldn’t quite bring herself to shed her skirts and ride astride. Jones didn’t even think of it. She sat straight in the saddle, loose and relaxed as her pony carefully picked his way down the faint track. Edie did her best to emulate her. It wasn’t that she was a bad rider, she just wasn’t as confident as she could be.

I’m roughly a third of the way through my estimated word-count at approximately twenty-two thousand words, so I’m getting there slowly!

 

research rabbit-holes

One of the things I find most difficult about writing in a period or place I don’t know all that well is research. Not because I find research hard… although it can be. My issue is that I find I get sucked down rabbit-holes and dead ends in to fascinating articles on subjects I have no need to know about in depth.

Image by ardilladecolores from Pixabay

Today for example… Himalayan mountain sheep, Argali, which led me in to an article about Himalayan grass populations. Then eighteenth century shoes, which morphed in to three articles on seventeenth century Civil War uniforms. And I am still digesting this fascinating article about the eighteenth century garden flower seed trade.

My work in progress is a whole new era and location for me – the Himalayas in the 1780s – and it’s taking me ages to get to grips with the setting of the story. I was going to spend April doing Camp Nano and get the first draft sorted by the end of the month. That is not happening – life, children, chickens, all that good stuff has pretty much overwhelmed me. But I’m plodding along now, back in my thousand-word-a-day groove, or close to it and it’s just a matter of time.

I’m also working on my serialized sequel to The Gate, the continuing adventures of Matty and Rob, that will be released to newsletter subscribers as I go. (Please do sign up if you’d like to be included in this!). This doesn’t require quite so much research because I am already comfortable writing in that era after two full-length books and the short story, so fingers crossed I can keep it going.

release date: Shadows On The Border

Shadows On The Border, the sequel to Lost In Time will be published by JMS Books on 9th March.

Shadows follows Alec and Lew as they explore how their nascent relationship works and whether Lew is actually going to be able to stay in the 1920s, in what to him is the past.

We also meet Fenn, who is from beyond the border (Beyond The Border was the working title of this sequel but it didn’t quite fit by the time I’d got to the end). Fenn is searching for an escaped Creature, probably the one that Alec and Lew and their team have been dealing with. Fenn isn’t human. And seems to sit somewhere in between male and female. Alec’s second in command, Sergeant Will Grant, is nevertheless drawn to them and eventually finds himself more invested in Fenn’s mission than that of his own team.

Watch this space for a coming cover reveal and the first part of the story!