Sunday, September 26, 2010


First there was Shakespeare and his play MACBETH. Then came Dunedin author T.K.Roxborogh with her novel BANQUO'S SON. And now her latest tale - BLOOD LINES.

In MACBETH, Banquo is murdered and his son Fleance escapes to his father's words, "Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!" 

BANQUO'S SON picked up Fleance's story, from his home in England with adoptive parents, to his falling in love with Rosie, returning to Scotland and finding his place in the royal family and ultimately becoming Scotland's new king.

BLOOD LINES continues his story. Betrothed to Princess Rachel, despite his love for Rosie, his first year as king sees him wage battle with usurpers, set out on a secret mission to free his betrothed from her abductors, and learn that being a true monarch is about loyalty, honour and duty. 

The story opens with a stranger seeking wisdom from the three witches and takes you on an exciting ride from Scotland to Normandy via a Norwegian castle, then back to Glamis Castle in Scotland, for a royal wedding. On the way there are battles, love, torture, faithful servants and dubious English nobility.

And just when you breathe a sigh of relief, a certain mysterious meeting reminds you that there is still another installment to Fleance's story.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Tom Sawyer
Last night was a very special evening. At a meeting of the St. Clair Woman's Club, a play - Between The Pages of our Childhood - was performed. The writers of this play were my friend Ruth and myself.

Last year we wrote a play for this group about a Roman holiday and this year they requested we write another. The theme was Archives and Libraries. So Ruth and I put on our thinking caps: earlier in the year the Dunedin Children's Library celebrated its centenary, and thus we had a beginning.

Centered around a little old lady called Miss Children's Library, the play involved many beloved characters who would call on Miss Library and interact with each other. We had Christopher Robin, Dorothy with Scarecrow, Mary Lennox, Tom Sawyer, Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter.

It was well received and produced much laughter, especially when Tom Sawyer fell in love with Anne of Green Gables, and she in turn made him cry! Then Harry Potter came to Anne's rescue, sure his friend Hermione could cure her of her carrot hair and freckles.

Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden
It was a wonderful experience to see our words brought to life. And I enjoyed seeing these older ladies play these characters with such relish. Characters who they have known and loved longer than I have lived. Harry Potter excluded of course!

Monday, September 20, 2010


This weekend a huge storm the size of Australia swallowed our little country of New Zealand. High winds and rain assaulted the north and deep snow brought down a stadium in the deep south. In Dunedin, where I live, we had cold grey days with passing flurries of snow. Not that I really noticed, I was lost in the world of Sara Donati's, Fire Along The Sky.

The fourth in The Wilderness series, I found I couldn't put it down. Another ten years has passed since the last volume. Nathaniel's Mohawk daughter arrives home without her husband or son and a tale of horror, Elizabeth and Nathaniel's daughter Lily struggles with love and life, her twin Daniel rushes off to fight in the 1812 war and their cousin Jennet, newly widowed, arrives from Scotland.

Add to that the reappearance of a man from Hannah's past, a woman bent on hateful revenge, a plot to free prisoner's of war and a mysterious and dangerous priest and you have a rip roaring yarn.

What I especially liked was the way the story now revolves around the children of Elizabeth and Nathaniel, yet they are still at the heart of things. Also, Sara Donati manages to tie this incredible multi layered story in an authentic historical setting.

A new twist with this book is the cliff hanger ending. There were many resolutions, but a main character's whereabouts and safety are left in the balance. I'm looking at the cover of the next book - Queen of Swords - and wondering if I can put off reading it while I attack one or two others from my TBR pile. I think not.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


There are really two types of historical fiction.

 First there are those that take the life of a real historical figure and write that person's story. In these types of novels most of the characters and happenings are based on real events. They are called fiction because their stories are fleshed out, the odd fictional character might make an experience and sometimes events are either created or moved in time to suit the story. These novels take an enormous amount of research and are both entertaining and enlightening.

When I think of these types of historical works, Sharon Penman comes to mind. I first came across her in the mid 1980s when I read her first book, The 'Sunne In Splendour.' A huge tome telling the life of England's Richard the Third. Her latest novel, 'Devil's Brood' is the third in a trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She remains one of my favourite authors. Her characters leap off the page and she re-creates perfectly the world in which they live.

Alison Weir is another author who re-creates the past with heart felt precision. 'Innocent Traitor', her first fictional book (she is an historian with many excellent non-fiction works to her name), tells the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey.

The other type of historical fiction is what I write. My characters are pure imagination and their stories are fabricated. However, they live in a definite era in time, wear the clothes of that period and live amongst the technology of that age.

In my WIP 'Blackbird', which is set in the 1880s, I have created a home in a fictional valley in the mountains of north west Wyoming. The local towns are fictional: populated by made up shop keepers, bankers and barkeeps. But my people live like any others in that area and era. They pump their water, milk cows, hunt for meat and rely on lamp light at night.

However, when my characters move away from this fictional pocket, they encounter real places: Cheyenne with its surprisingly modern electric street lights and telephones, San Francisco with its trams and steam ships.

I'm enjoying creating this fictional world and populating it with my made up people, but I'm glad that I can anchor it to a real period in time and a place that exists.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Most of us have heard of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but who knew he had a sister?
Five years older than Wolfgang, Nannerl Mozart was also a child prodigy. As a child her life was one continuous tour of musical performances to the royalty and nobility of 18th Century Europe.

She shared the limelight with her brother, but as she blossomed into a young lady she was made to step back. Marriage and motherhood where a woman's lot in life.

As Mozart frolicked from town to town, Nannerl stayed at home. Her desire was to compose music and to play to large audiences. And later, having fallen in love she desired marriage to her beloved.
But Wolfgang's musical gift came first and foremost in the Mozart family and her needs were cast aside.

I found this novel a well written and interesting read. As a lover of Mozart's music, it was enlightening to discover the story of his family.

Nancy Moser has written many books, but this was her first historical novel. She went on to write JUST JANE -  the life of Jane Austen; WASHINGTON'S LADY - the story of George Washington's wife, Martha; and HOW DO I LOVE THEE? -  Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning's great love story. I haven't read these yet, but I plan to.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Before I'd turned the first page of this book, I have to confess to being skeptical. It was written by the great granddaughter of one of the main characters. A story of her family. Sometimes these books are written with the best of intentions but little writing talent. Not this book. Lalita Tademy has taken the lives of her ancestors and created a heart wrenching and moving tale.

Suzette, a slave to Creole masters, has ambitions of marriage to a free coloured boy. Instead she bears two children to a French man. A man who she neither loves or wants. Her daughter Philomene, marries Clement, a slave from a neighbouring plantation, but is separated from him. Their daughter Emily, forms a loving relationship with a white man.

The Civil War set these people free, but the colour of their skin ensured entrapment of a different sort.

Spanning over 50 years in the later half of the 1800s and set in Louisianna, this novel tells a powerful story of the strength of the human spirit.

The excerpt below is the closing words of the priest at the marriage of Philomene and Clement.
"I then, with the consent of your masters and mistresses, do declare that you have license given you to be familiar together as husband and wife, so long as God shall continue your places of abode ... as long as you shall behave yourselves as it becomes servants to do ... you remain still, ... your master's property."

For me, these words capture the total absence of personal freedom these people endured.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Spring has arrived and snow is forecast for tomorrow night. I'm in two minds about whether I want it to snow or not. (Yep, I know, it's not actually up to me.)

 We've gone all winter with no more than a skiff on the surrounding hills and I feel a tad ripped off. I like the way snow makes the world fresh and new under its thick white blanket. The air is crisp. There is a strange silence, punctuated by children laughing as they build snowmen. I even like the puddles of greyish brown water the children deposit just inside the door. Outside it smells fresh with that particular 'snowy' smell. Inside it's woodsmoke, soup and the cheesy aroma of mousetraps.

We can get overly romantic about something we haven't experienced for awhile. We forget the cold numb fingers, the dirty sodden mess of lawn after the thaw, and the broken bones or crumpled fenders. There are plenty of people who are pleased about our mild winter.

I've had my own experiences of winter this year. I haven't physically experienced it, but I've written about it. The big snow of 1886/7, in Wyoming. It came to be called 'The Big Die Up'. Snow drifts so high it buried homesteads, freezing the occupants. Cattle blown into fences or blind canyons, piled high and dying. Freezing blizzards that lasted days. Four to five months of white out. A terrible natural disaster that affected many mid-western states.

So, whether it snows or not, I'll be thankful I've never experienced more than five inches of snow and grateful I live in a time of electricity, heat pumps, and telecommunications.