Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Day

The New Year arrives early in New Zealand, thanks to our position close to the Date Line. So it's already eleven hours old as I write this. 2010 has got off to a pleasant start, including leftover m├ęthode champenoise for breakfast.

Musing over 2009:
- I substantially edited Sentence of Marriage, removing most of what made up the first five chapters and reducing the word count by over 20,000. I also tightened and polished the three later books.
- I joined Authonomy in November 2008, so I've been a member for all of 2009. Sentence of Marriage has been in Authonomy's top 40 for the last few months. More importantly, I've received useful feedback and real encouragement, and have had the chance to read some fine manuscripts. I've also had a lot of fun there.
- I put my books on Smashwords, which has itself made huge progress this year as an increasingly high profile e-book provider. Sentence of Marriage is currently at number 15 on Smashwords' Top 100 list, and has had almost 3,000 downloads.
- I've had fine reviews on WorkingGirlReviews for Sentence of Marriage and Mud and Gold.
- I've made some progress on my WIP, most importantly in getting to know the characters who make their first appearance in this volume.

Looking ahead for 2010:
- I'd like to see a completed first draft of my WIP by the end of the year. It will take the series from 1912 to the mid-1920s, so will include the years of the First World War (though from the point of view of those left at home, not at the Front), a new area of research for me. The whole book is going to demand much research, a thought I relish.
- I'm hoping for more reviews (Sentence of Marriage was accepted for review by a site specialising in historical fiction on 31 December), and to gain more visibility for my books.
- I have a list of ideas for future books that keeps expanding, much to my delight.
- I hope to keep growing and improving as a writer (which, as Mr Collins said to Lizzie, perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier).

Happy New Year to everyone reading this.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas on the farm, 1883

To everyone reading this, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

In Chapter 14 of Sentence of Marriage, we see one family's Christmas Day 126 years ago. For them it was not so very different from any other day of the year. There were cows to milk; cooking to do; children to tend. They went to church in the morning, and at lunchtime sat down to a hot dinner: roast lamb and vegetables, followed by plum pudding. Quite unsuitable for a New Zealand summer, of course, but a hot dinner on Christmas Day was a tradition brought from "Home".

Gifts were simple, and often homemade—Amy has given each of her menfolk a handkerchief embroidered with his initial. This year there's a houseguest: a young man from the city, who's been paying Amy a good deal of attention. She's unable to hide her disappointment when he appears to have no gift for her, but he persuades her to slip outside with him while the rest of the family is lingering over tea and cake.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This week in New Zealand history: Our First A & P Show

On 14 December 1843, an Agricultural and Pastoral Show was held in Auckland, the first in New Zealand. The idea of such shows was at first slow to spread, but from the 1860s onwards they were held in more and more areas of the country.

Agricultural and Pastoral Shows still take place every year in many parts of New Zealand, but in the 19th Century, when rural communities were isolated, they were an eagerly anticipated event. The original aim of these shows was to improve stock breeding and husbandry, but from the early days they also had an important social function.

A & P Shows did not come to the Bay of Plenty until the early 1890s. My fictional version of one of these early shows is in Chapter 30 of Mud and Gold, set in March 1893. Here's an extract:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Review - Mud and Gold

Some time ago I had a wonderful review of Sentence of Marriage on the review site WorkingGirlReviews (see link in sidebar). Willow from WGR has just reviewed the second book, Mud and Gold, and once again I'm delighted with her review.

NB: this review contains (unavoidably) a large spoiler for Sentence of Marriage. So if you've yet to read SOM, and think you may read it one day, it might be best to avoid the review for now. But here are its beginning and end:
Picking up where Book I ended, Mud and Gold is the second in the trilogy, Promises to Keep. I purchased this book after reading the first in the series, Sentence of Marriage. The same excellent writing, characterization, and realism make Book II just as riveting.
...
Mud and Gold is the perfect blend of darkness and light. Ms. Parkinson has created quite a masterpiece with the Promises to Keep series, full of so many interesting characters and intriguing stories. If you love historical fiction, don’t miss these books.

Once again, WorkingGirlReviews has awarded me its highest rating. I'm honoured.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

This week in New Zealand history: NZ troops in the Boer War

The first contingent of New Zealand troops embarked for South Africa on the 21st of October 1899. On the 9th of December that year, the New Zealanders had their first engagement with enemy troops.

By the end of the war in 1902, New Zealand had sent almost 6,500 troops and 8,000 horses in ten contingents. To that total I've added one more soldier: in Settling the Account, a young lad's desire for adventure and loathing of home make him long to sail off to South Africa.

It's no easy task for him; not only is he underage, but would-be soldiers had to come up with the daunting sum of £25 for their equipment. My boy does find the money, from a source he would never have thought of. And then there's the question of whether or not he'll manage to smuggle out the horse he thinks of as his own, but about which his father feels quite differently.

Most of the soldiers came home again. None of the horses did.