Wednesday, 28 May 2014
I'm feeling very happy - the sales of my books are increasing by leaps and bounds. Especially the Cleo Marjoribanks Murder Mysteries - the first one 'Homicide in Hampshire' is excelling itself!
Cleo is a lady somewhere the wrong side of 40 and from the east end of London. Having won the lottery she packed up her job and retired to the New Forest where she bought an old house. DCI 'Steaming' Kettle came on the scene to resolve the murder of Cleo's housekeeper and they immediately recognised each other. They had known each other when children.
Following on from Homicide is 'Dirty Deeds in Downdene' where Cleo again gets involved and, as a friend of my said, 'There are as many bodies as in a Midsomer murder'. The why is a bit of a problem as estate agents and golfers are involved.
The latest Cleo book is 'Poltergeists in the Parador'. She and Steaming are on holiday in an up-market boutique hotel on the Costa del Sol and come across a body. Then a pair of English teenaged tourists disappear and.... yes, Cleo and Steaming help the local police with their enquiries.
My most recently published book is 'Model Murder' which is the second book in the South Downs Mysteries series. In the first book 'Antiques in the Attic' Sarah found some antique silver in the loft but it mysteriously disappeared. First her ex-husband died - was he murdered? - then strange events occurred and a secretary with whom Sarah works disappeared. Being scared to stay on her own in the house Sarah moved in with her friend Zelda. The police team is headed up by DI Sinclair. Both books contain police procedures and are set in West Sussex. As the title suggests, Model Murder is about the murder of a model. Lots of lovely suspects!
Two of my books are set in Florida (where I used to live). The murder mystery is 'Death of a Copycat' (on Kobo it is called 'Writing can be Murder' - I never did work out how to change the title!). Trudi is English, belongs to the writing circle and, when another member is murdered the local Sheriff, who is always seeking votes, is sure that she is the killer. Especially when a second writer is also murdered. Fortunately Detective Gomez doesn't believe Trudi had anything to do with the killings. The second book, 'Irresistible You' (using the pen name Jemma Linley) is a romance that takes place in Miami Beach. Yes, that city with lots of lovely Art Deco, the lively Ocean Boulevard and jazz. Both Mel and Andy are English musicians with ex-spouses who cause trouble.
Want to know what the rock and roll scene was like in 1958? 'Rock'n'Roll Murders' will tell you. Blue police boxes, black Wolsey police cars with bells, an inept senior detective who doesn't like teenagers or rock'n'roll. Two bodies, vandalism and a big surprise at the end.
As well as being available on Amazon Kindle (links alongside), my books are on Kobo, I-pad, Sony, Nook and umpteen others plus www.smashwords.com
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
I love costume museums, from the Victoria and Albert in London to, for example, Bath in the west of England. Many of these museums have costumes through the ages from around the 18th century to modern day.
Some museums are lucky enough to have a mantua. One of those fantastic huge dresses with a skirt that sticks out on either side and looks as wide as it is long. Whenever I see something like that I think that you could take afternoon tea with your cup and saucer balanced on one side and plate of sandwiches on the other!
Following the demise of Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans and the arrival of Charles II Court Dress became more elaborate, which brings us to the mantuas. They were made of rich fabrics and were often highly embroidered.
As the sewing machine hadn’t yet been invented it is hardly surprising that seamstresses went blind at a young age. Imagine all that fine stitching, much of it done by candlelight throughout the night because “My lady” wanted her new mantua as soon as possible.
I am sure no portraitist had to work so hard under such conditions to produce his work of art because that is what these vast gowns are.
Fortunately the everyday dress of “ladies” was less elaborate and didn’t require hoops.
Which brings us to Regency garments. The most popular line became known as the Empire. High waists, low necks, short sleeves and slim line skirt to the ankles. Often trimmed with ribbons or small imitation flowers. Many of the evening gowns were of fine cotton muslin which daring young ladies would dampen to make it cling to their bodies.
Day dresses would be of wool or cotton (depending on the season of course). The cottons often with a print of flowers or in plaid.
With the end of the Wars and the return of silks and laces ladies again demanded elaborate dresses and hoops. Not as exaggerated as in the 18th century – just a simple crinoline.
By this time, rather than competing with the ladies, Gentlemen’s clothing was far more sober. Dark colours, with trousers, long jackets and top hats being the day time dress. For evening wear a tail coat and fancy waistcoat were obligatory.
As the 19th century progressed the fullness of ladies skirts shifted to the rear in the form of a bustle. This style remained popular into the Edwardian era when bosoms came back into fashion and the front of the skirt was almost straight.
The 20th century was the first one when the styles of clothes changed rapidly over the years. There were several reasons for this – the invention of the sewing machine, wars and, of course, female emancipation.
Probably the silliest early 20th century lady’s dress was the “hobble-skirt”. The long skirt being so tight that the ladies gait became a hobble. Unlike the more elegant gliding steps used previously which made the ladies look as if they were on wheels.
With the outbreak of World War I women began to replace men in certain jobs and found that their skirts were too much to cope with. Together with the lack of money and materials skirts gradually became shorter.
I think we all know the popular 1920s flapper style – highly disapproved of by the older generation. Ironically it was the Flapper Generation which disapproved of Mary Quant’s mini-skirts!
As they say, what goes around comes around.
Thursday, 1 May 2014
As we all know, with so many people leading busy lives it can be easy to forget that neighbour or elderly relative, especially if they are housebound.
Many of us are still able to get out to the shops so we do see people and have a chat - even if it is only with a shop assistant. Amazingly I have lived in my current flat for four years yet only know two people to chat with. Of course some neighbours are out at work. Fortunately I am on the internet and can keep in touch with friends and relatives. What I do find annoying is that the only time some of them telephone me it is to give me bad news! For those who can remember that far back, it is a little like dreading the appearance of a telegram.
Sometimes I will phone a friend for a chat and at the end of the conversation their response is either, 'Lovely to chat for a change,' or 'Don't leave it so long next time.' As if I'm the only one who can make phone calls! Some elderly people cannot afford to make calls.
Incidentally, when you ask an elderly person how they are and they say 'Fine', don't take that as gospel. They are either simply being polite or don't want to be a bother to you, assuming that if they tell you about their aches and pains you will think they are hinting to you that they need help.
If you know of an elderly person living near you take a couple of minutes to check that they are alright. When going to the shops find out if they need anything.
And, although you may give them your phone number and tell them to call you, they probably won't. Why not? Because they don't want to be a bother.
If you have elderly friends or relations how about taking them out occasionally? Even if it is just for a short drive and maybe a stop for a cuppa. That is something that housebound people really appreciate.
If you or your children have a 'project' that involves the past the best people to talk to are the elderly. We have long memories! You might be surprised to discover the history of some of your neighbours.
To learn about other ways to help the elderly go to www.ageuk.org.uk