On Kings, Sexuality and The Divine Right to Rule

2015-06-07 12.48.16I spent some time on my back this weekend contemplating a ceiling. Before you jump to any hasty conclusions, I have not taken up the oldest profession in the world, but was lying on a beanbag staring at the stunning ceilings of the Banqueting House in London, scene of King Charles’ I execution in 1649. The panels, painted by Rubens, and extolling the virtues of kingship, cost £3000 – a fortune in the seventeenth century – and were classic examples of the extravagant spending that contributed to the Stuart King’s downfall. Of course it was the troubled reign of King Charles I that provided the setting for Fair Game and I could hardly write it without getting to know him a little. For that reason, the visit to the Banqueting House was a very personal experience, and quite moving, particularly in the knowledge that King Charles had entertained so richly there during his reign, prized it enough to set jewel-like paintings in its ceilings, only to return in disgrace; a defeated king, condemned to die where he had once celebrated the glory of his kingship.

His father, King James I, features a lot in my upcoming novel, A Feminine Crime and he’s quite a character. The successor to Queen Elizabeth I, already King of Scotland, James was the monarch to combine the English and Scottish thrones. Son of the murdered Lord Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots, he was immersed in drama from the day he was conceived. He was only a few months old when his mother was forced to abdicate. She fled Scotland only to be imprisoned by her English cousin, Elizabeth and James never saw her again. Mary died on the block at Fotheringhay Castle, nineteen years later. Scotland was a violent country, with several families vying for power and, during his lonely childhood, James saw several of his regents murdered. He was himself kidnapped. This had a profound effect on him, giving a morbid fear of assassination. Although weapons were banned in his presence, he was known to flinch at every sudden movement or loud noise, and he always wore a padded waistcoat under his clothes. He craved friends and company and gravitated towards ‘beautiful people’. A copious drinker, he was known for sloppy eating habits and an uncouth sense of humour. It has been suggested he was homosexual due to his habit of kissing and fondling his ‘favourites’, handsome young men for the most part, in public, but it’s my belief he was starved of affection as a child and admired those that had the looks and grace he lacked. These character traits, along with his, famously decadent court, made him a fascinating character to write about. It was perhaps his belief in the divine right of kings to rule, celebrated by the Rubens paintings, that set in motion the events that would lead his son into Civil war.

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An unusual wedding

I went to a wedding recently. It was my daughter’s. The invite was quite a surprise because she is only twelve and I have never met the young man. I didn’t even know they were going out!

It took me three days to make the wedding dress, despite choosing a simple pattern. The fact that I sewed up one armhole by mistake and confused the back and front bodice sections didn’t save time! Still in the end it fitted – huge sigh of relief – and she even liked it.

There were no wedding jitters; she consumed a hearty breakfast and scurried off to school with her wedding dress and assorted bling packed in her rucksack and an indefatigable smile on her face. At the appointed hour, I put on my poshest dress and kitten heels, and followed her to school, where, as mother of the bride, I was introduced to her father. His name was Lord Montague – a very charming young man, whom I was certain I’d never met before. 

The wedding took place in a classroom. The groom was handsome, the bride, naturally, beautiful, proving to everyone that it is possible to wear school trousers under a full length gown and still look chic. I was a proud mum. They exchanged Haribo wedding rings, and the groom kissed the bride on the cheek. We then decamped to another classroom for a wedding breakfast : Midget gems, digestive biscuits, Mini Cheddars, chocolate biscuits and onion rings, followed by chocolate wedding cake. They offered me champagne but it tasted like orange squash. Still, Lord Montague put an onion ring on my finger and offered to take me on a cruise, so things were looking up.

We had more photos outside, to the great entertainment of the rest of the school, who watched out of the windows. My daughter threw her bouquet which I somehow managed to catch. Bit of a faux pas really, being the bride’s mother.
I went home nibbling the onion ring 
on my finger, wondering why education had never been as much fun when I was at school, but that was in the dark ages.

And the winner is…..

This is more of an announcement than a blog, but am so excited to finally have some goodies to reveal…..

Gives me great pleasure to announce the winning book cover photographed by Deborah Taylor Web Design & Photography and voted for by YOU,(thanks a million for getting involved everyone) and to congratulate Mrs J Clarke whose vote won her a free paperback copy. To celebrate, the Kindle version of Fair Game can be downloaded FREE on 10th and 11th May, http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00G9ITWTM/

Get stuck in,

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The Great Getaway

DSCN1241 DSCN1249Visited my favourite shop the other day – OK it’s a little exotic, Borneo Pearls in Kuala Lumpur. The fact that my other half is something of a globe- trotter has it’s advantages; I might have been abandoned in shivering UK in January whilst he drifted through Australia, but now it’s payback time and I’m lounging on a sunbed on a remote Malaysian Island.

Whilst Kuala Lumpur is in every way modern with copious bustling shopping malls, gleaming high rise tower blocks that trap the heat and roof top pools, Redang Island is quaintly rustic. I think we have come out of season; the resort, nestling in the edge of jungle, with stunning views of turquoise seas, brightly painted fishing boats and craggy distant islands, is blissfully quiet. We have the pool to ourselves, not to mention the beaches 🙂 Snorkeling in calm, warm waters we have discovered a myriad of jewel-like fish and even glimpsed a wild turtle!

The jungle leaks into our living space here; monkeys chatter to us from trees and fruit bats skim overhead at dusk, bombing us with unripe olives, which splatter the ground or bounce off the tin chalet roofs, clattering like steel drums. At bedtime we are serenaded by the nocturnal creatures, a mixture of hoots squawks and chittering. If the TV only has 5 channels, and the internet is slow and unreliable, who cares? Let the world go by for once….

Spring Fever

The  intrepid dog walkers
The intrepid dog walkers

It’s 7 degrees outside with a wind-chill factor of 4. I should be cosily hammering out 2000 words, but my antiquated central heating has finally given up trying and it feels like -2. To add insult to injury my fan heater (extracted from shed after two years inattention) is merely circulating cold air! I am writing at my kitchen table wrapped in numerous jumpers and fingerless gloves, stopping every twenty minutes to brew tea.

However, I am heroically bashing on, despite the icicle I suspect is forming on the end of my nose, consoling myself with the prospect of sun and beaches next month.

Speaking of holidays, we have had a house guest:

With dubious personal habits, such as wallowing in muddy puddles, and gorging on pigs’ ears (even to the extent of stealing them under cover of darkness), my friend’s chocolate Labrador, Mr Bingley, recently came to stay for the weekend. He’s a happy, gregarious sort, greeting everyone with a beating tail and a blanket between his teeth (by way of a gift, I assume), but something of a liability in the Tiniest Cottage in Berkshire, inadvertently treading on everyone’s feet and bumping into furniture.

We took him for a walk in the woods where we discovered his penchant for swimming in brackish ponds and dashing up to strangers with all the control and velocity of a meteor. Whilst we grew redder and hoarser with every attempt to call him to heel, Bing happily snuffled other dog walkers’ pockets for treats and rolled in the mud. If we thought him more water buffalo than dog, it proved to be a completely different case when we got him home. Despite several inducements, he refused to come out from under a hedge until we’d thrown away the bath water and put the doggy shampoo back in the cupboard.

He dried (eventually), scoffed his tea with porcine abandon, and collapsed in his bed, blissfully snoring while we collected up his toys, swept and mopped the floor, and pretended to his owner, when she came to collect him, that ‘he’d been no trouble at all’. When he went home, we waved goodbye in the kind of exhausted stupor I have only experienced after hosting toddler play-dates. Of course we love him dearly really and would doggy-sit again at the drop of a conjurer’s hat.

Before my fingers drop off (remember the lack of heating) I must quickly mention that the voting has closed for my new book cover, and I’ll be announcing the winner this week. Must dash now, off to borrow an electric heater…

Book cover project, part two

Part two of Deborah’s big ‘reveal’…..

Deborah Taylor Photography

Anna Nagel has asked me to create images for her book called Fair Game. In this second part I am going to show the initial images that I edited in Lightroom and Photoshop. In part three I will finish by showing the text overlaid onto them.

My start point is to process the .NEF files generated by my Nikon D7000 in Adobe Lightroom. The image was shot in natural daylight (10 secs @f22 ISO100 50mm). I firstly correct any chromatic lens aberration and upright the perspective. Then I lightly sharpen, white balance to Daylight, check white clipping (this is shown on the ‘before’ picture as red), remove any dust or spots. Finally I reduced the saturation, so the orange fabric wasn’t too harsh and dodged a little light back into the tarot cards.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 15.02.03 Screen shot of book cover 1 in Adobe Lightroom

The second image was also shot in natural…

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Book cover project, part one

Deborah Taylor’s first intalment on the shooting over my book cover. Secrets of the trade revealed…..

Deborah Taylor Photography

I am really excited about my latest photographic project, a book cover! A good friend of mine who goes under the nom de plume of Anna Nagel has asked me to create images for her book covers. The first one we are creating an image for is called Fair Game. Set in seventeenth century England against a backdrop of civil war, witch hunts and religious upheaval, this historical romance tells the story of Anne Somerton, a respected noblewoman with a passion she dare not admit and a secret she must never confess.

I started with a few ideas in my head of how to set up the shoot for the Fair Game book cover. Inspiration was taken from re-reading the novel and looking at other book covers that both I and Anna liked.

The first set up I tried was using my fireplace so I could get a definite line…

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