Friday, January 30, 2009


Yesterday I woke to a world surrounded in mist - again not what you expect here in Dubai but I do love a misty/foggy morning. Brings out the romantic soul in me. It's not something that Dubai normally offers for the romantic heart however it does offer wonderful sunsets and blissful sea breezes. One can't have everything.

This leads to one of the links. I have now been an expat for 20 years. I have embraced it with open arms which considering my background may seem strange. However in my travels I have watched people struggle to cope with their new environment especially those who haven't really choosen to take the plunge. The Weekend FT has a great article on the subject today here as many with the current market situation are being given no choice but to relocate for the sake of a job.

Now onto writing stuff. A new agent blog has appeared to shares some useful tips and links... here. In one of her posts Kate directs us to this link which reminds me not to expect too much as far as earning anything from my writing! Finally here's a great all round site with sooo much I can't begin to list (thanks to Zinnia for pointing me in this direction!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Odd Month

Scanned through many blogs and hearing from other writers I have noticed a large chunk of us have struggled to find the 'groove' this month. I tried to remember if this always happens or is it just this January that writers are having a slow start to the new year? Any thoughts?

I have found I am working very differently from previous rewrites. Normally when I write it is full steam ahead never looking back except maybe to check the hero's eye colour (yeah, I know I should write it down at the start and I do but I can never find where). But this time I keep fussing over the beginning. I don't know if its fear (maybe) or just a sudden understanding of the impact of the words I choose. I am also layering in more with each pass. Also because there is so much new stuff I have to keep looking for all my wonderful dyslexic stuff! Then having gone through it again and again I wonder if it works for the new direction? Have I hinted at too much too soon? I think I have become obsessed which is not something I have ever been. It probably means I should push pass this first bit now and get on with it!

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Tales of the Unexpected

So everyone was a bit puzzled by the picture of large puddles outside my villa and me wearing a old fur coat here in Dubai. Just check out what happened this weekend in the Emirates! Here's a link for more photos from Gulf News.

Now back to writing issues......The progress metre hasn't moved. I have actually gone a bit further but not much. This is not at all like me. Once I begin something I am normally full speed ahead. I know how I want to proceed. In previous versions of August Rock I have three pov - Judith, Tristan, and Toby. So in Anne Robinson style - Tristan - you are the weakest link so his pov is cut. Great! But that leaves me with a very little story in a way. I start thinking do I have enough? Well, no, I don't or at least not as the story stands.

Two things come into play here. One is a comment made by lovely editor who rejected AR (but did say she wanted to see future work). She said she found herself much more interested in what happen to Judith before she arrived in Cornwall. I know all about it of course - I have to I'm the writer - yeah.

Well, step two was pulling out the wonderful Donald Maass book - Writing the Breakout Novel again and asking myself his bloody hard questions and things start pinging as they always do. (When I finally see one of my books in print I will have to send the man a thank you note at minimum and if I ever set eyes on him in person he's getting one massive hug). Toby's story remains the same but poor Judith is going to have an even harder time! So no problem then filling in Tristan's vacated view! Phew.

I also realized while doing this thinking I had purely by mistake titled the book well for Judith herself. August Rock is only visible above the water's of Falmouth Bay in a few very low tides in any year - so what happens when it decides to show itself?????

Okay - now head back down. How's your work going?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Links and Disclosure

The mystery is gone - the Stig is outed and I for one am sad. The article is here. My Top Gear experience will never be the same now that I know the face behind the helmet that listens to romance novels. Quite frankly my heart is broken.

Another link which I won't comment on but could prove that Mills and Boon have had it right all along with their high earning Alpha Males is here.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The picture was taken just outside our villa the other morning. It is not what you expect of Dubai but in January this can happen as can cooler weather.........
So some things can take people by surprise - expecting a desert when what you see could almost be in England.
I like the unexpected (I think), but sometimes it's not so good yet that's the way of the world.
So I am surprised that the process of rewriting August Rock is so slow, but happy because I have lived with these characters in my head for so long I don't need to think about it too much. They are fully formed (unlike my first drafts where I discovered my characters as i write). In one way this makes the writing easier. New thoughts and twists keep me interested while I hope remaining true to my vision. I would just like to know why it is going quite so slowly?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Lords' Taveners' Dinner

One of the delights of expat life can be the balls and charity galas. On Friday night I was lucky enough to attend The Lords' Taverners' Dinner at the Westin. The ballroom was filled with glamourous and the rest of us mere mortals! Chris Tarrant was the mc of sorts and really got wound up during the auction. The surprise item was the final one - not listed on the programme. The bidding went like wild fire for the first dance of the evening with Darren Gough. Now, I haven't been following Strictly Come Dancing here in Dubai so was a little late understanding why a dance with a crickter went for 9000 Dirhams (memo to self - get to Julia Williams' book - Strictly Love on the TBR pile!). What I hadn't was missed though was that it was a wonderful gentleman buying it for his wife, who wasn't even in the room. The look of surprise of her face was magic!

The evening was also graced with an outrageous performance by Rory Bremmner. Some times I just love being a expat!

P.S. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be pulling my mother's old fur from the closet to wear - but as pre-dinner champagne was on the terrace I was the only woman not freezing in their finery!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Resolutions and Rewrites

Well, it took me a little longer to begin my only resolution for the this year - read a book a week. However I forgive myself totally between travel and teeth there hasn't been too much time. Yesterday I finished The Farmer Needs A Wife by Janet Gover. The first thing I can tell you is that I am smiling just thinking about it. It was the perfect book to begin my resolution with and also the most delightful diversion from the 'pain.' Janet successfully carries the reader through a story filled with characters that are so real and with your hole heart you want them to find love. If you are looking for a book that lift you up then The farmer Needs A Wife is a wonderful place to start.

The next book off the TBR pile was a Christmas present - Annie Dunne by Sebastian Barry. I have just this morning slipped into the pages and was immediately carried away to another time and place.

Now onto rewrites....My plans have gone amok. I was going to plow on with the dirty draft of the new book but now it's on hold. Several things have conspired to this state of affairs.

- Cornwall

- walking

- Toby

- a conversation with the lovely Julie Cohen

- correspondence with a lovely agent

I love the story of August Rock, but as you know I have rewritten the hell out of it and then some more. I have learnt so much by the process, but I knew in my heart that although a much more polished script came out at the end of the endless rewrites AR had lost its heart and my voice. This thought had been in the back of my mind when I began to post Toby's story over Christmas. I hadn't really tinkered with it unlike the rest. Toby's story was not far off the dirty first draft. It still retained its freshness. ACH still has its vitality because I haven't worked it into the ground and I used all that I have gained from killing AR.

This combined with the feedback with said lovely agent started turning over in my mind. Could I start again? Could I find my voice and story's heart if I went back to an early version before I killed it? I will have to wait to find that out, but I am back into AR and loving it. I can hear the story sing if that makes sense. All those wonderful little pings that happen when writing is flowing is happening. So having said I wouldn't rewrite August Rock unless and editor or an agent asked me to - I am. Toby in a way asked me too. He was one ghost that wasn't going to stop haunting me :-)

So this is why there hasn't been any recent installments of his story. I'm afraid I am leaving you hanging but He needs to be with me as I plow back into the heart of the book. I do have to say thank you for being interested in him because it gave the courage to tackle the past so to speak.

Have any of you ever gone back and tried to breath life back into an over worked story?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Alive and Undamaged but still Resmebling a Chipmunk on One Side and the Romantic Novelists' Association 50th Anniversary Book

Couldn't blog yesterday as the Internet here was playing silly. So I am alive and almost well but best of all no nerve damage. I can now say hand on heart I love my dentist. Thank you all for thoughts and good wishes - I'm sure they helped.

Now for exciting stuff......The RNA will celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2010 and in honour of this occasion they are bringing out this gorgeous book! Loves Me, Loves Me Not. I can't wait as it contains short stories by some of my favorite writers. You can read more about it here.

Other RNA news.....the short list is out for the Romantic Novel of the Year. Here's the press release:

"Bestselling author Cecelia Ahern is one of the six authors shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2009, which is organised by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The final six novels are currently being read by a panel of three judges, who will select the winner in time for the presentation at the Awards Lunch to be held on 10th February 2009 at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington.

This year’s award has a truly international flavour, with authors living far afield and books set in Japan, Canada, India, Dublin and Skye. Cecelia Ahern, whose hero is American, comes from Ireland. She is joined by Susanna Kearsley, who hails from Canada, and Linda Gillard, who lives in Glasgow. England is well represented by Lesley Downer, based in London, Judith Lennox from Cambridgeshire and Julia Gregson, whose shortlisted novel was one of Richard and Judy’s summer reads, from Monmouthshire.

The shortlisted novels are:

Thanks for the Memories - Cecelia Ahern (Harper Collins)
The Last Concubine - Lesley Downer (Transworld/Bantam)
Star Gazing - Linda Gillard (Little, Brown/Piatkus)
East of the Sun - Julia Gregson (Orion)
Sophia’s Secret - Susanna Kearsley (Allison & Busby)
Before the Storm - Judith Lennox (Headline Review)

Cecelia Ahern’s magical tale, where the consequences of a blood transfusion are not quite as expected, was described by readers as “an unusual story, full of originality, with fascinating characters…it blew me away.”

Lesley Downer says: “I'm thrilled and flattered to have been shortlisted. I grew up with Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice and hugely enjoyed creating a romantic world of my own. I found it utterly gripping to write about a society which has no concept of romantic love. It made it all the clearer what a powerful and primeval force love is.” Readers agreed, saying, “a real magic carpet of a book… truly moving… a hero to die for…couldn’t put it down.”

Linda Gillard’s haunting, lyrical story of a blind woman and the stranger on her doorstep had readers entranced: “…beautifully written and very moving.” Linda says, "I'm thrilled to bits that my eccentric love story has been shortlisted for this important and exciting award."

Julia Gregson’s historical novel of 1920s India was “thought-provoking, rich and engaging with a real sense of place,” said readers. Julia says, “I am delighted and honoured to be shortlisted for the RNA prize.”

Susanna Kearsley’s compelling time-slip novel was described as a “most wonderful love story, a well-written, original and satisfying read”. Susanna says, "I still can't believe it. It's a great honour, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be in company with such wonderful authors."

With the multi-generational family drama by Judith Lennox, readers spoke of “a beautiful epic of love and loss with engaging characters”. This is Judith’s third time on the shortlist, “so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!” she says.

The panel with the difficult task of picking a winner from this page-turning collection of romantic novels comprises Alice O’Keeffe, Books Editor at the Bookseller, Fanny Blake, Books Editor of Woman & Home, and Peter Crawshaw, who runs"

Now the question for today is - have you read any of them and if so which one do you think will be the Romantic Novel of the Year? Last year it was Pillow Talk by Freya North (which I really enjoyed). The best bit for me, of course, is that I'm going to the lunch on the tenth of February.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pain and Fear

I am a total dental whimp and today fills me with horror and dread. A wisdom tooth is being extracted. That in itself is bad enough but this partiular one has roots that straddle the nerve running down my jaw which is why it has been left in place until now. However the infections it brings on have gone from once every two years to every six months. The blighter has got to go.......

So I am praying that no permanent nerve damage will take place and that the pain will not be as bad as this writers mind is making it....

Will report once I am out of the fog of the hopefully brilliant pain killers.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Back - Toby 7

Well, I think I am back. Landed at three and it's now ten thirty. I'm on my second cup of coffee and thinking about a third. Okay, I have that now so maybe this post be somewhat coherent!

It feels really strange to be sitting here with the sun baking in as when I left the UK yesterday snow flurries were falling but that is the strangeness of my life - what seems normal (cold, wet and snowy) is holiday and what should be holiday is real life.

The boys are safely back at school and I had a wonderful lunch in Oxford with fellow writers which fed my soul a bit. I know there must be writers here in Dubai but I haven't managed to tap into them yet. Thank God for the communities on line.

I haven't posted any links in a bit which is very remiss of me as I have seen plenty. So here is the last one I read ( by multi multi published Anna Jacobs about the Writing Life) which I knew I must share and I will dig up the other when I have my brain back in the correct time zone.

Cricket Pitch, Farthing House School 6th June 1846
Toby gazed at the chestnut trees in the distance. He was longstop. The click of the bat connecting with the cricket ball caught his attention, but it wasn’t coming his way. When was Frederick coming? He had checked the letter every night this week. He wondered if it was good to look forward to something so much. He had started to tell Edwards then stopped and this happened several times. Edwards was the only boy who spoke to him. He was going to Eton as well. Edwards received many letters. His mother wrote to him. His aunts wrote to him and his sister wrote to him. Toby had seen a photo of his sister. She was particularly beautiful.
The crack sound snapped him away from the image of Edwards’ sister, Emily. No, again there was nothing he needed to do. The sun warmed his head and shoulders. He longed to be in Cornwall. He had another three weeks until he could go home. Those weeks seemed far too long to wait to see the Helford and sail freely on the water.

Frederick hadn’t mentioned what time he would come or even if it would be today. It could be tomorrow but Toby hoped it was today. The match would be over soon and then Saturday afternoon waited in front of him. Sundays were awful but they were allowed to stay in bed until eight o’clock then there was chapel. The singing was what made it bearable.

Scanning the small crowd watching the match, he could recognise the faces of a few of his schoolmasters. Unfortunately his Latin master was there. Toby did not want to see him. He had been made to conjugate the verb, to be, 1000 times after he confused it in an essay and his wrist still ached. He also saw his English master. He was the youngest and nicest of them all. He actually smiled on occasions.

The umpire’s voice interrupted Toby’s thoughts. Had he just caught a glimpse of a carriage arriving down the long drive? Could it be Frederick? He hoped so. Would he have brought the painting? Toby was curious to see how it had come out and he longed to see his mother’s portrait again.

The game ended with the other team winning by a few runs. It didn’t matter to Toby which is why he was put out in the longstop. He enjoyed bowling but wasn’t often given the chance and he admitted to himself that the others were much better than he. After all he had only just learned the game. His father had never taught him. He had seen a few people play but had never played himself. It was a baptism of fire. He was thrown into the bottom team and told to get on with. It was only Edwards’ kindness that got him through. Edwards explained the rules thoroughly and then taught him how to bowl, and field. Toby had no problem batting.

At the pavilion, tea was being served and Toby was starving. He had learned quickly to eat as much as he could no matter what the food tasted like as there was never enough. He had outgrown his trousers and matron was tut tutting him as she tried to bring the hem down on them. He tried to explain that he couldn’t help it if he was growing quickly, but she wouldn’t listen. She never listened to him or any of them in fact. She just shovelled cod liver oil into them and frowned.

“Trevenen. There’s a Mr. Frederick Peters here to see you.”

Toby shivered as the clipped tones of his Latin master pulled him away from the food table.

“I trust this has been cleared with the headmaster.”

“I wrote to him three weeks ago of my intended visit. The family have commissioned me to paint Tobias and I needed to see him again in order to complete the painting.” Frederick looked the master directly in the eyes and Mr. Pinchly turned and walked away.

“Hello, Tobias. I see you didn’t mention my visit.”

Toby nodded. His mouth was still full of sandwich.

“Probably best. I did write to the head. I have permission to take you out this afternoon.”

Toby swallowed. Out? He had not been off the grounds of the school since he had arrived.
“Thank you.”
“I thought you might be pleased.”
Toby looked at all the food still on the table.
“I will feed you.” Frederick smiled. “The carriage is waiting. Do you want to change?”
Toby looked down at his whites. They were still clean. “No, if it’s fine to go in these?”
“Yes. Of course. You’re anxious to leave?”
Toby smiled and followed Frederick who nodded to Mr. Pinchly on his way past and Toby couldn’t help enjoying the look on Mr. Pinchly’s face. It looked as if the lemonade was too sharp. No doubt he would pay the price for his outing on Monday, but he would enjoy his escape while it lasted. He waved discreetly at Edwards as they walked to the carriage.
“How is it going?” Frederick faced Toby as they set off down the long drive.
“It’s wonderful then, I can tell.”
Toby laughed feeling the tension leave his body as the school gates disappeared.
“Your uncle used to tell marvellously horrid stories of his life there. I can’t imagine that it has improved at all,” said Frederick.
“I wouldn’t think so.”
“What’s the worst part?”
Toby looked out the window.
“Maybe it would be easier to say what’s the best?”
“Classics,” said Toby.
“Classics? Why?”
“Well, the master is not too awful and I like the stories.”
“Your favourite?” asked Frederick.
“The Iliad.”
“The sea.”
“You love the sea.”
“Yes,” said Toby.
Toby looked directly at Frederick.
Toby turned to the window again. He had thought that Frederick might have understood.
“Nothing. I just enjoy being near the sea.”
“Tobias, are you saying that you love the sea because your mother is there?” Toby nodded. “Don’t you believe she is in heaven?”
“Where is heaven? All I know is she is in the sea.” No one would understand. She was there whenever she spoke to him. They went through large gates and down a long drive lined with trees. The house that came into view was bathed in warm summer light making the yellow stone glow. The carriage door was opened and Frederick led the way out. Toby followed. A beautiful woman came out through the large front door.

“Oh, Frederick, it’s you. I thought it might be Charles. Oh, it’s Clarisse’s son. Oh, yes, of course it is I can see the resemblance. How silly of me. Do come in.” Toby followed behind them. Here was some else who knew his mother. Maybe he would find some more answers to his questions?

Monday, January 05, 2009

On the Road Again - Toby 6

Well, I knew it would end but that doesn't make it any better. It has been bliss. Farewell to Cornwall and hello to travel. I hate dropping the boys back at school - I miss them terribly but the up side is that I'm around for a writers' lunch on Tuesday!

I shan't be blogging for a few days - me thinks, as I won't have any connection until I reach the airport. So for the time being here is the next installment of Toby's story.

Farthing House School, Surrey 17th May 1846
The letter was addressed to Master Tobias Trevenen but Toby didn’t recognize the writing. It had been left on the table in the hall as all post was. He did not often get letters so he wasn’t sure why he looked. Maybe it was the flourish of the writing that caught his eye.
He tucked it under his jumper and went quietly up to his bed. The dormitory was empty as the other boys were outside running in the last of the late evening sun before the final bell. Once prep had finished, they all exploded out into the grounds. He could hear the shouting from four floors below. If he was quick he could read his letter without anyone looking over his shoulder. He was still not accustomed to the lack of privacy; no time alone. In Trevenen House he was often on his own and he realized that he liked being on his own, not sleeping in a dormitory with twenty other boys who all knew each others’ business. Most of the boys had been here for ages. He was the new boy.
Slowly Toby opened the page. In clear black strokes it began:
Dear Tobias,
I have finished your portrait. I am very pleased with it. It hangs beside your mother’s. By now you know that you can never take it to Trevenen House. It was your mother’s wish for me to paint your portrait and I am happy that I have fulfilled it. She would be pleased.
I would like you to see it and I would like to meet you again. I plan to visit the school on the first weekend of June. I will be painting in a nearby house. I look forward to our meeting again soon.
Frederick Peters

The sound of pounding feet reminded Toby where he was. He folded the letter and placed it in its envelope before hiding it under his mattress. Chaos reigned as the boys scrambled to get ready for bed. The master would be through in a few minutes. He took pleasure at shouting at them even when they were doing what they were supposed to.
Half an hour later the lights were out and the noise had disappeared except for two boys on the far side of the door who were discussing the cricket match. Toby closed his eyes and let up a silent prayer that he finally had something to which he could look forward. He had had only one letter from his father and he had been here for five weeks. He longed for news of home. Had his father’s mare given birth yet? Had Mrs. Williams’ son come back from the Navy yet? He had been due leave. Had she made that lovely lamb stew? Had the bluebells finished? He longed to walk through the wood and see the swathe of blue as the sunlight crept through the trees. He wanted to be home.
Frederick’s visit was only a week away. Would he bring the portrait with him? What would Frederick do with the portraits? Frederick had been in love with his mother but why would he want Toby’s portrait? Toby had so many questions he wanted answered yet there was no one he could ask. He hadn’t known that his mother and father were cousins. Did that make Meredith father’s cousin as well? Somehow Toby didn’t think this was so. He wondered how distant? Frederick had said distant. Frederick made it sound as though mother shouldn’t have married father, or wouldn’t have if Frederick hadn’t been away.
Toby had always thought that his father loved his mother. Toby knew that she was a wealthy woman. It was held in trust for him. The money came from the American side of her family. She had been an only child like him. Toby had always wanted brothers and sisters but none ever came. His mother had laughed at the idea every time he had raised it.
Mother had been so lively. Once she had left for America, the house became very quiet and the life had never returned. His father never had parties and very few people came to stay. Not that that mattered to Toby. He didn’t care whether the house was full of people or not. He would have liked to have seen his father smile a bit more. His father didn’t leave the estate often and after a while few of the surrounding families came to visit. At first there were invitations but they stopped coming when father never accepted them. Mrs. Williams would shake her head and rub her hands on her apron. Once he heard her talking,
“It’s not good for the boy to be on his own so much. He needs to meet up with his peers. The master can’t get past his grief.”
“Enough,” said Mr. Smith. “The boy could hear you. He’s always around the kitchen.”
Toby was hidden in the larder and could just see the butler’s feet.
“That’s because his father takes no interest. It’s his guilt, no doubt. He’s no one but us, the poor lad.”
“No use talking about it, Mrs. Williams.”
“No, Mr. Smith, I expect not.”
Toby had remained hidden on the big bottom shelf until he was sure he could get out unseen. He wanted to know more as it never made sense. Why did his father want to be alone? Why did he feel guilty? Toby didn’t mind being alone. It was better than being with these boys at school.
Something hit his head. Toby sat up. He wasn’t sure where it had come from. He stayed still. He didn’t want the master to come storming in because of the noise. There was a little light coming in from behind the curtains so only dark shapes were visible. He waited listening carefully for any movement. This was not the first time so he knew there was more to come. It was best not to react.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Reading and Toby 5

Reading over on Julie Cohen's blog and B.E.'s I realized that I was more than a bit of a lost cause because of my minimal reading last year. Yes, I read. I always do but just not enough. I could use a thousand excuses but none are good enough. These days reading does come at the bottom of my time allotment list and this is not a good thing for a writer. In fact I think book buying comes before reading if you look at my TBR pile. So as I haven't made any resolutions this year I am going to make one now. I will a read a book every two weeks even when I a writing a new work!

Haven't said that I must confess to having been in Waterstones in Truro yesterday morning and having made a scene. I was browsing and found this book on the shelves.

I squealed. Yes, squealed loudly but I just couldn't contain my excitement! Now I know Janet Gover as she has been in the New Writers Scheme of the RNA with me. She has even driven in the desert of Dubai with me. I have been waiting to see this book in print. I also am feeling terrible because she is having her launch on the day I fly back to Dubai. I had hoped to change my flight but DH's big meeting prevented that. I can now atleast console myself with reading the book on the flight knowing they are laughing and drinking with out me!!!!!

I have to say there is a special excitement when friends books come out especially there first. To compound my frustration another friend is having a launch for her first book the following day! So i am hoping to find Jean Fullerton's book, No Cure for Love, before I leave.

See why I need to read at least one book every two weeks! I have had one huge disappointment to report. I have been waiting to read Jan Jones's book Fair Deception for ages. I ordered it months ago and had it sent here to Cornwall. It was to be my Christmas reading treat. Well, it wasn't here although I have an email saying it was sent. Someone else must have it. I do hope they are enjoying it and I want them to know how they have taken away my treat for cooking Christmas dinner for fourteen away from me. I earned the time to read this book!

London 17th April 1846
The light had faded and the room had gone cold. Toby was stiff as he rose when his cousin arrived. He glanced at Meredith then he looked at the painting of his mother. Frederick had covered it with a sheet but Toby could still see her face. Her eyes followed him lovingly. Now all he needed was to hear the roar of the ocean and he would be complete.
“Frederick, has he been cooperative?”
Frederick put down his brushes and turned his attention to Meredith.
“Meredith, what a strange question. Tobias has been the perfect model. Are you sure that I can’t have him tomorrow?” He took a cloth, wiped his hands and walked from behind the easel. Toby longed to see what the painting looked like. Had Frederick captured him? What had he seen in him? He had seen right into mother’s soul and placed it on the canvas for all to see except no one did as it was in the corner of the studio under a sheet. Toby wanted it in Trevenen House where it belonged and he could look upon her every day. How he missed her but at least he could still hear her.
“Positive. He goes to school.”
Toby placed the boat on the shelf. He looked at the other objects there. It was an odd collection of old toys, vases and pieces of broken pottery. In the corner behind a vase, there was a pile of letters tied up in a red silk ribbon. Toby’s eyes studied the writing knowing he had seen it before. It was his mother’s writing. Frederick had kept his mother’s letter just as he had done.
“Tobias, take your leave of Mr. Peters.”
Toby wondered why Meredith had lied saying it was her father who had arranged the meeting. With what Toby knew now, his father would never want Toby to see Frederick Peters let alone have his portrait done by a man who was in love with his mother.
Toby held out his hand to Frederick. The artist clasped Toby’s hand with both of his. His brown eyes showed more emotions than his few words of farewell.
“What school?”
“Why does it concern you? I can’t recall the name. It’s where Thomas went. He’ll have a term there before starting Eton in the autumn.” Meredith swung on her heel and Toby followed her out after waving goodbye again. School was something Toby didn’t want to think about. Why did he have to go? He knew it was traditional for Trevenens to go to Eton but he didn’t see the need. He could learn all he needed to run the estate by living there and studying with his tutor. His cousins had gone so he had surrendered. He knew he had no choice. His father didn’t seem pleased either but he too had agreed. It was what all Trevenens did. He was a Trevenen and therefore he would go off to school. Just so long as he knew he was coming back. He had some things planned but they were planned for the summer and he would be home by then. It would be twelve long weeks before he could stand on the Nare again then August would come. The tides would be right this year for August Rock. Last year the best tide was at night. He needed daylight and this year he would have it for a few days.
In his mind he could see Elsbeth in the boat house. He had checked her before he had left. Over the winter he had helped repaint and varnish her wood. He had mended the sails with Mrs. Williams’ help. Now he must wait for summer to sail and he must wait for August to find his treasure.
Sitting in the carriage, Toby listened to the rain begin tapping the roof while Meredith sat on the other side alone. Her husband must have had more important things to do. The whole day did not make sense as Toby wasn’t sure why Meredith had taken him to Frederick. Had Frederick asked or had Meredith remembered? Were Meredith and his mother close? Meredith clearly knew Frederick. Thomas was Meredith’s brother and Frederick knew of him. Toby had so many questions and no one to answer them.
“Cousin Meredith?” Toby asked.
She turned her cold eyes on him.
“Why was I there today?”
“What a silly question, Tobias. To have your portrait painted of course.” She turned again to look out at the passing scenery.
“It wasn’t Father’s wish. Was it?”
Her head swung back to him.
“Don’t be impertinent. What did Frederick say to you?” Meredith asked.
“Nothing. I saw Mother’s portrait.”
Meredith’s eyes flashed and her face became red. Toby thought for once she looked pretty.
“So he has finished it.”
“Yes,” said Toby.
“It took him long enough.”
“What are you going to do with the portrait he’s painting of me?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Why have it done then?” he asked.
“Your mother wanted it done.”
“So my father has no idea.”
“No.” Toby wondered how much more he could ask.
“You went to America with Mother.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Were you close to her?”
“What sort of question is that, Tobias? She was my cousin. Of course we were close.”
The carriage came to a halt. The door swung open and Meredith marched out. Toby followed slowly through rain. London didn’t look well in the rain. Not like Cornwall which was beautiful even in the rain. The grey fog enveloped the red brick buildings and he could almost taste the soot in the air. He longed to be home but he had weeks before that would happen. Somehow he had to get through.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Traveling - Toby 4

Dh and DD head back to Dubai today. It's a strange feeling really - them leaving without me yet I still have the boys for another couple of days. I have to say Christmas and New Year 2008 have to be one of the best if not the best ever. I felt sadness for those no longer with us but over all they were days filled with laughter and love - a tremendous gift.

Now onto something writerly of sorts - by pulling Toby's story out of AR it has given me the chance to analyse why this part of AR works and has always worked for me. The rest of the story doesn't any more - bits of it do but I now have the distance I can see the weaknesses. In the past I have never been any good at getting enough distance from my work. Finally, I can. I think it helps that I have written and revised another full novel and am underway with another. Have any of you found this? At what point in your writing life did this ability arrive? And if it has - have you been able to use it or is just that you can see the faults, but not know how to fix them (I think this might be where I am sitting at the moment but as I won't let myself touch the rest of the book until the dirty draft is done of current book I won't know for a bit)?

London, 17th April 1846
Toby sat patiently on the stool by the window holding a model boat in his hands. As he peered over Frederick’s shoulder, he could see his mother looking at him. She was so beautiful in a white gown that draped onto the floor. Around her long neck were the Trevenen sapphires and in her hand she held a deep red rose in full bloom whose petals looked about to fall to the ground. It was her eyes that reached him. He remembered those eyes watching him as he would run on the lawns in summer.
“Tobias, do you want to stretch? You’ve been sitting for a while.”
“I am fine.” Toby gave Frederick a weak smile.
“Well, I need another cup of tea and maybe some lunch. You are looking a bit pale.”
Toby climbed down from the stool. He supposed he was a bit stiff from sitting, but he didn’t want to move away from his mother’s painting. Why didn’t his father have it in the house? It was so beautiful. She was so beautiful. He had heard her voice in his head, but now he could see her.
“May I look at what you’ve done?” Toby bent down to the floor to stretch his leg muscles.
“Tobias, I do not let anyone see my work until it is finished.”
“Is that why my father was arguing with you?”
Frederick put down the teapot and turned to Toby.
“You remember that?” Toby nodded and placed the boat aside. It was not the colour nor was it the shape of his boat, but it was a lovely model. He liked the way the lugger sail moved back and forth when he blew it. He longed to be on the water again, but would have to wait until summer when he could go home.
“No, that was not why we argued. You were six when you came here before?”
“No, not yet." It was late November and the day had been brighter than this. The trees had been bare do to fierce storms that had blown through at Trevenen House. just before he and his father had traveled to London. The weather was such a contrast to the beautiful summer that year. He and his mother had often walked slowly through the woods talking and enjoying each plant and animal they had seen. She had left for America a few days later.
He remembered that she had spent a week in London before sailing. That must have been when she sat for the portrait. She had written to him from London and from Southampton. He still had both letters and the ones she wrote from America. The last one was posted from New York just before the she left.
She was in America when they came to London. His father was solemn that week not speaking very often. Toby thought his father was counting down the days until his mother returned just as he was. They had stayed with his uncle Charles in Chelsea. The house was always in chaos from what Toby could tell. He had four cousins and he liked them all, but they were all much older even though Charles was his father’s younger brother. Charles had married young and very well they all said. Toby felt it must have been love and not money as his uncle was always happy unlike his father. Father was happier when mother was around, but even then he wasn’t as happy as Charles. Toby rubbed his forehead.
“Why did you and Father argue?”
“It was a long time ago, Tobias.”
“Only seven years ago,” said Toby.
“That can be a long time.”
“Yes, I suppose it can be." Toby paused then pressed on. "Why are you painting me? Did father ask you to?” Toby stood by the window looking out at the small garden. There was no grass now although there had been seven years ago.
“Why do you ask?”
“Well, I know you argued with father. I know that you still have my mother’s portrait. So I am puzzled why you are painting me now. Somehow I feel that my father doesn’t know.”
Frederick laughed and put the tray with tea and sandwiches on the rickety table.
“You’re no fool Tobias Trevenen. You, I think, are much like your mother.”
“Yes, now that I have seen your portrait of her I do resemble her somewhat.”
“I didn’t mean in looks although that is also the case.”
“You meant I think as she did?”
“How well did you know mother?”
Frederick sat down on the sofa and Toby remained by the window.
“Come, sit, and eat.”

Toby hesitated. Frederick took a sandwich. Toby watched the hands on the bread which he had watched move swiftly with the brush. Toby had guessed that Frederick was making fast broad brushstrokes at the time with the occasional little flicks.
“Will you answer my questions?”
Frederick gave a short dry laugh. Toby sensed that there was something he was missing. He took a sandwich.
“I’m thinking about it. I do suppose you have a right to know who asked to have your painting done if nothing else.”
Toby took a sip of tea and waited.
“Your mother asked me to paint you.”
Toby spluttered on his tea.
“She wanted me to paint you seven years ago but I said no. I said that I wouldn’t be able to capture you at that age. She must wait until you were at least thirteen.” Frederick laughed again bitterly.
“So you are painting me because mother asked you?”
“But she’s dead.”
Toby watched Frederick closely. He could see a strain around his mouth.
“You loved my mother.”
Frederick’s head shot up.
“When did you meet her?”
Frederick walked to the sink and came back. Toby waited. That was why he had captured mother so perfectly and that was why her eyes were so filled with love.
“All my life I knew her and yes, you’re right I loved her.” He stopped and turned to the portrait.
“Is that why you and father argued?” Toby didn’t find it strange that Frederick loved his mother. How could he not love her? She was so beautiful and filled with joy.
“No.” Frederick turned to Toby. “Yes, I suppose it might have been the unspoken reason. The argument was stupid.”
Toby waited but Frederick did not continue. He was staring at the portrait again.
“How did you know mother?”
“My father was the head gardener on the estate. We were the same age. We grew up together.”
Toby watched Frederick’s eyes drift away. Frederick shook his head then continued,
“She was the one who encouraged my art and encouraged me to travel.”
“Did she love you?”
Frederick shrugged.
“When I came back from studying in Rome she was married to your father, her distant cousin, and you were on the way.” Frederick turned to Toby. “Have I surprised you?”
Toby got up. He didn’t feel like eating any more. He moved to the window. He was here because his mother wanted him to be. She had never told him in all the times he had heard her in the sea yet he knew this was right.
Toby looked out at a solitary daffodil in the brown earth; it looked alone, sad and very out of place.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year - Toby 3

We had a wonderful New Eve and then a New Year's Day celebration that blew away any remeaining cobwebs. If I simple said we had barbequed sausages on the beach - most people would assume I was back in Dubai - but no. I was on a beach in Cornwall with the Eastly wind keeping hopping the whole time. great fun indeed :-)

London, 17th April 1846
Toby sat silently in the corner staring out of the carriage. The scenery passed in a blur. He should be interested in everything, but he couldn’t focus on anything in particular. His cousin and her husband sat on the other side and they kept looking at each other but not speaking. No one was.
Yesterday he had left the one place he loved. The sound of Mrs. Williams crying had not gone away. Toby longed to cry, but he knew that was not done. He let the rain outside shed the tears he for him. Toby didn’t want to be here. He belonged in Cornwall in Trevenen House by the sea. No one would listen to him. The visitors had arrived and everything had changed. In fact it had changed before they arrived.
Since his mother left, his father showed no happiness. Toby was six when she went to visit her maternal family in New York. He clung to her and begged to go with her, but his father held him back. He could still hear her voice.
“Talan, let him come with me.” She stared hard at Father then dropped her eyes.
“No, he’s too young to travel so far. You’ll be back in no time,” he said.
“My family would love to see him. Please.” His father’s hand tightened on his shoulders.
“No, Clarisse, he stays with me.”
He could see tears in her eyes as she went out to the waiting carriage. The last image of her was her soft brown hair tucked under her hat and her gloved hands waving to him from the carriage. Then she was gone.
Looking across at his cousin, he could see the same soft brown hair, but she was not as pretty as Mother. Her face was hard with a sour expression which Toby felt made her ugly. Cousin Meredith and her husband had made a big fuss of his thirteenth birthday and then spent Easter at Trevenen House. All the time there they were plotting and trying to convince Father that Toby needed to go; to get away from Trevenen House. It was not good for a young boy, they told his father - so many times that he eventually gave in. So now Toby sat with these two traitors and he was on his way to some school. He was to spend a term there and if he behaved he could go home to Trevenen House before he was sent to Eton. His father had gone there and so had his grandfathers. Now he must follow in their footsteps, but he didn’t want to.
The carriage stopped. Outside looked somehow familiar. He had been here before.
“Tobias, your father has arranged to have your portrait painted. You will spend today with the artist. Tomorrow we will take you to school.” Meredith’s clipped tones made everything she said sound horrid.
The carriage door opened and Toby walked hesitantly into the rain. Meredith’s shoes clicked as she bustled past him. Head bowed he followed. A man in a coloured waistcoat with his shirt tails hanging out greeted Toby. Meredith pulled Toby by the hand shoving him through the door.
“Hello, Tobias. We have met before, but I don’t suppose you’ll remember that.” The door went clunk behind him. “I’m Frederick Peters and I’m going to paint your portrait.” The man was thin and quietly spoken. Toby let out a big sigh; at least he did not have to spend the day with his cousins. This man had once been kind to him. He had the sketch of his mother in his trunk. Toby wondered whether the portrait had been finished and why it never made it home.
“Shall we have a cup of tea before we start?” asked Frederick.
“Yes, please.” Toby shrugged off his overcoat and looked for a place to hang it. Frederick took it and threw it over an old chair which filled the hallway. It was already piled high with things including a marble bust of someone without a nose. Toby’s hand reached out to touch the cold hard surface with jagged edges but he stopped, turned and followed Frederick.
After the darkness of the hallway, the room was filled with light even on this dank day. Toby recalled it vividly as the smells of the oil paints and thinners caught his nose. Standing in the corner were several easels and stacked against the walls were hundreds of canvases. He could see some had been used, but most faced inwards and he couldn’t tell if they were completed or ready for painting. The sound of the rain hitting the glass roof reminded him of the hours he spent by his window listening to the rain and wondering who was out at sea.
“Please sit down, Tobias.” Frederick waved his hand toward a leather sofa at the far end of the room. Toby sat among the coloured cushions looking at a sketch pad on the floor with a picture of a woman without clothes. He sat on the edge of the seat and turned his eyes to the window yet they were constantly dragged back to the image of her on what had to the sofa he was sitting on. Her face was turned away from the viewer as if she was lost in thought and a scarf ran from her arm extended above her head across her… He stopped there. He could feel his face glowing red.
“Tobias can you pull that small table out from under that rug beside you?” Toby jumped to his feet. His eyes fell on the Turkish rug folded on top of a small table. As Toby moved it he was surprised that the table could hold the weight as it was the flimsiest table he had ever seen. Gingerly he picked it up and placed it in front of the sofa. He hoped that the colour of his face had returned to normal, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the sketch.
“Now, Tobias, tell me something about yourself.” Toby watched Frederick’s long fingers grasp the teapot and pour. They were very elegant hands. His mother had had elegant hands.
“Well, sir, I am thirteen.”
“That is a start. What do you like to do?” asked Frederick.
Toby took a sip of tea. He wasn’t sure how to answer.
“Let’s make it simpler. What do you like? Chocolate? Cake? Running?”
“Oh, I like Mrs. Williams’ spice cake with cream.”
“Good. What else?” Toby’s mind raced to the Nare. He loved to stare at the sea and listen, but he could never tell that for no one would understand. The sea told him secrets.
“I’m not sure, sir.”
“I’m sure you have a dog. Do you love the dog?” Frederick waved his sandwich about as he spoke.
“We have many, sir, but none is mine. They are for the farm and for hunting,” said Toby.
“Do you hunt?”
“A bit.” Toby thought about the pheasants in the woods. He loved their colours darting among the trees.
“Not to your taste.”
“Oh, no, I quite like it.”
“Well, you live by the sea. Do you sail?” asked Frederick.
“Yes.” Toby smiled.
“Do you have your own boat?”
“Yes,” said Toby.
“What’s her name?”
“What colour is she?” asked Frederick.
“Blue, deep blue like the sea on a summer’s day.”
Frederick was smiling at him now. Toby smiled back.
“What do you like about sailing?”
Toby paused. What did he like about sailing most? Being near his mother, but he could never say that. He had tried to tell his father once and his father had slapped his face and walked away.
“I don’t know. Just being on the water I think.”
Toby had never thought about that. Yes, there had been freedom ever since he had his own little boat.
“Yes,” said Toby.
“Do you like the sea?” Frederick asked.
“Sir, why good?” asked Toby.
Frederick smiled at him.
“Well, in order to paint you I need to know a bit about you. I have to try and capture what in truth is not to be captured. It is a fleeting thing, a glimpse into the soul. It is a moment when my brush transfers an image of a person to canvas. If I don’t know anything about the person then it is a hollow image. Do you understand?”
Toby nodded. He did understand.
“Sir, did you capture my mother or just get an image?”
Frederick paused as he was getting up. He then sat back down.
“So you do remember coming here before.”
“Yes, I still have the sketch you gave me.” Toby bit his lower lip but continued. “It’s all I have to remember her by.” Frederick reached out and put a hand on Toby’s shoulder.
“Tobias, come see. Tell me if I captured your mother.” Toby followed him to a corner of the room where a tall canvas was covered in an old cloth. Frederick pulled the cloth away and stood back watching Toby. Toby stood with his hand clenched in front of him. Tears welled in his eyes. There she was in all her warm beauty. He could almost touch her and feel her breath on his skin.