Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Saturday 30 December 2017

Happy New Year!

Third edition of the Ballater Bugle has gone out today to those on the mailing list, along with a short story - let me know if you think you should have it and haven't! contact@kellascatpress.co.uk.

Our internet was misbehaving over Christmas, so I hope everyone had as good a one as they could, and now I can at least wish you a very Happy 2018. And many excellent books, and the opportunity to read them!

Friday 1 December 2017

November - December literary house

                                                          Well, for November I was going to go to Ratty's lovely hole in
                                                          the riverbank, but instead, as the snow is falling and it's already
                                                          December, it's this children's book:

The Dark Is Rising: Modern Classic by [Cooper, Susan]

The Dark is Rising This was the book, and the house, that started it all, because I try to read this one every December as the daylight fades and the cold bites. Officially it’s the second in The Dark is Rising series, coming after Over Sea, Under Stone, but it’s the only one that has been filmed (don’t bother watching it, read the book) and it’s probably the only one that can be read as a standalone.

‘It will be a bad night,’ said Mr. Dawson, ‘The Walker is abroad, and this night will be bad, and tomorrow will be beyond imagining.’

Will, the hero, on the verge of his eleventh birthday, is the youngest of a family of nine children and the house at Christmas, out in the country, is chaos.

‘“He said, remembering a duty: ‘I haven’t fed the rabbits yet. Want to come?’
‘Booted and muffled, they clumped out through the sprawling kitchen. A full symphony orchestra was swelling out of the radio; their eldest sister Gwen was slicing onions and singing; their mother was bent broad-beamed and red-faced over an oven. ‘Rabbits!’ she shouted, when she caught sight of them. ‘And some more hay from the farm!’
‘“We’re going!’ Will shouted back. The radio let out a sudden hiss of static as he passed the table. He jumped. Mrs. Stanton shrieked, ‘Turn that thing DOWN!’ …

The calm silence of the rabbit hutches and hen house are a relief, but then they return to the wonderful madness inside.

‘The grey world had slipped into the dark by the time they went back to the kitchen. Outside the window, their father’s battered little van stood in a yellow cave of light. The kitchen was even noisier and hotter than before. Gwen was setting the table, patiently steering her way round a trio of bent figures where Mr. Stanton was peering at some small, nameless piece of machinery with the twins, Robin and Paul; and with Mary’s plump form now guarding it, the radio was blasting out pop music at enormous volume. … Voices and laughter filled the long stone-floored kitchen as they sat round the scrubbed wooden table; the two Welsh collies, Raq and Ci, lay dozing at the far end of the room beside the fire.’

Clearly I’m drawn by large, messy families – the opposite really of what I’ve always had, so perhaps a ‘grass is always greener’ idea.

Dear Amazon  has done something bizarre with my sales figures for the last couple of days, so I  have no idea if the new Hippolyta is selling or not! I hope it will sort itself out soon. But in the meantime, I could either go and tackle some Christmas shopping, or I could go and find that well worn paperback and return once again to where the Dark is Rising! Now, which?

Thursday 30 November 2017

Out today!

The new Hippolyta Napier, A Murderous Game, is out today - as the snow falls most appropriately outside my window!

House blog to follow in a day or so - it's been a bit busy here and I've been wallowing in lovely research for my next project, as well as planning a couple of short stories and another novella for my lovely mailing list people.

Friday 17 November 2017

Not one, but two, new books now ready to order (and out in the next fortnight!)

They weren't quite supposed to be published so close together, but such is life! And at least they're not easily muddled. Jail Fever is a paranoid romp through Edinburgh in the year 2000 - and a few centuries before that, too. A Murderous Game is the third in the Hippolyta Napier series, set against the anxieties of parliamentary reform and riot. Both available for preorder on Kindle - paperbacks to follow soon!

Nicholas Eliot is a bad-tempered merchant with a shady past, feeling under the weather.
Catriona Lindsay is an archaeologist, leading a student dig, when she finds something unexpected.
Tom Buchan is a microbiologist, investigating a new and terrible disease with a stigma.
Together, their knowledge could save thousands of lives - but someone does not want them to ...

A red dawn breaks over winter woodland, where two men stand, pistols drawn. Political strife has come to peaceful Ballater, bringing death in its wake, and Hippolyta Napier is once more drawn to find out more – even when her own life is in danger. 

And A Knife in Darkness will be on a Good Reads giveaway from 22nd. to 30th. November, too!

Monday 30 October 2017

October's house - perhaps with a Hallowe'en flavour?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by [Rowling, J.K.]
When I mentioned this list to friends, right at the beginning, the first thing they said was ‘Hobbits’ and the second was ‘Weasleys, of course’. Actually again it’s a sketchy description, which was enhanced by the film of the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s Harry’s first time in a non-muggle house and as far as he’s concerned it’s love at first sight – I sometimes wonder if Ginny benefitted from that in their relationship, just as Mr. Darcy benefitted from owning Pemberley?

“It looked as though it had once been a large stone pigsty, but extra rooms had been added here and there until it was several storeys high and so crooked it looked as though it was held up by magic (which, Harry reminded himself, it probably was). Four or five chimneys were perched on top of the red roof. A lopsided sign stuck in the ground near the entrance read ‘The Burrow’. Round the front door lay a jumble of wellington boots and a very rusty cauldron. Several fat brown chickens were pecking their way around the yard.
‘It’s not much,’ said Ron.
‘It’s brilliant,’ said Harry happily, thinking of Privet Drive…
The kitchen was small and rather cramped. There was a scrubbed wooden table and chairs in the middle and Harry sat down on the edge of his seat, looking around. He had never been in a wizard house before.
‘The clock on the wall opposite him had only one hand and no numbers at all. Written around the edge were things like ‘Time to make tea’, ‘Time to feed the chickens’ and ‘You’re late’. Books were stacked three deep on the mantelpiece, books with titles like Charm Your Own Cheese, Enchantment in Baking and One Minute Feasts – It’s Magic!. And unless Harry’s ears were deceiving him, the old radio next to the sink had just announced that coming up was ‘Witching Hour, with the popular singing sorceress, Celestina Warbeck.’”

It delights me to think that even witches and wizards need hens and wellingtons!

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Hallowe'en and shabby houses

Hallowe’en is lurking just around the corner – this is not something I think religious people should ignore or try to lighten up, because it does remind us of the darker side of things, the threat of evil, and such things should not be airbrushed out (or entirely hidden under plastic Spiderman masks, nylon witch outfits, age 5-6 from your local supermarket, guaranteed to disintegrate before 1st. November, and a year’s supply of sweets in one night). Anyway, to mark the time of year Out of a Dark Reflection is free from 26th October for a week, and to accompany it is the novella-length sequel A Dark Night at Midsummer, now available for pre-order on Amazon.

I mentioned recently on Facebook our new chimneysweep who turned out to be a painter, sculptor and writer as well (as a friend remarked, a writer with a third or fourth job? Sounds familiar!). I bought a copy of his book (ah, marketing and distribution idea! Get a job with a van and carry half a dozen copies in the back!) The Concise Field Guide to the Haggis of Scotland by Stephen Bowers, very well illustrated by Katrina McIntosh and altogether a good laugh.

He commented when he arrived, ‘I like your house. It’s a creative house.’ I said, ‘Do you mean messy?’ ‘Yes, that’s right.’ This not entirely unfamiliar analysis of our house (another is ‘It’s like going out to the countryside’ – not quite sure what that means) was endorsed by an article in The Sunday Telegraph the following Sunday, where we were invited to tick boxes to see if we had a shabby home or a ‘fake’ one (shabby chic, I suppose). We ticked every one (to the weeping despair of the younger members of the household) except for the limescale-blocked kettle. Since we don’t live in a limescale area I thought this was an unfair condition – and like Jerome K. Jerome with his housemaid’s knee, or lack of it, I began to defend our miserably bare kettle, and to explain that we used to live in a limescaley area (Sussex) and indeed might well have an old limescaley kettle in the attic if we looked hard enough. Then I relaxed, and allowed those whose shabbiness was not on the same scale as ours to take some comfort in the fact that their kettles are nearly unusable. We can keep the coatrack that requires a degree in physics to hang anything extra on it, and the attic that holds many boxes (possibly containing a limescaley kettle) but only the Christmas decorations are regularly accessible, and the wireless permanently tuned to Radio 4 (why this should be the prerequisite of a shabby home I don’t know, but barring Ken Bruce and forays into Radio Scotland for the Out of Doors programme and local news, that’s our wirelesses).

Oh, editing … Editing A Murderous Game (Hippolyta #3), and Jail Fever is still off with readers. Got to get a move on. Researching a new project, probably a short series (maybe even a trilogy! Oo-er! I’ve never had a trilogy before), which includes a bit of woolwork as well. Any excuse!

Thursday 12 October 2017

Blog Tour: The Unity Game, by Leonora Meriel

"The Unity Game" is science fiction with philosophy

A New York banker is descending into madness.
A being from an advanced civilization is racing to stay alive.
A dead man must unlock the secrets of an unknown dimension to save his loved ones.
From the visions of Socrates in ancient Athens, to the birth of free will aboard a spaceship headed to Earth, The Unity Game tells a story of hope and redemption in a universe more ingenious and surprising than you ever thought possible.
Metaphysical thriller and interstellar mystery, this is a 'complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel' from an exciting and original new voice in fiction.

Reviews for The Unity Game
 “A complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel.” ~~ Kirkus Reviews
“Elegantly written, expertly crafted and a moving message. I found this book very hard to put down. Moving and poignant.” ~~ Lilly, Amazon US reviewer
“An engrossing, unique, and totally bizarre tale! I could not stop reading it once I started. Such a beautiful take on the afterlife, and its connection to those still living. A unity game, indeed!”~~ Brenna, Goodreads reviewer

About the Author
Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.
In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.
During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.
In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.
Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.

My Review:
This is a very striking book, following three main timelines (and a partial fourth). I say ‘following timelines’, but for good reason some of the chronology shifts about. The easiest line to follow, at least to start with, is that of David, a Canadian gone to the dark side in the financial world in New York. He is thoroughly obnoxious, and the book’s first draw is to see how he will get his comeuppance. Then there’s Alistair, who has recently died: his afterlife suits him very well, challenging his intellect, endorsing his life choices, uniting him with his beloved wife and allowing him to watch over his wayward granddaughter. Thirdly, there’s a being on a dry red planet, whose apparent malfunctions allow it to experience emotions far beyond those it had ever expected. Inevitably these three threads are finally linked in a plot involving alien interference on Earth and an explanation of life and death and overall existence in a way that I found convincing within the plot but ultimately rather disheartening. The writing is good and the links between the plotlines come together nicely, and the ideas in the book will certainly live with me: there is a good deal of intellectual meat to chew over. Be warned: there is also a good deal of explicit and sometimes violent sex, which will not be to everyone’s taste