New non-fiction: The Origins of English Surnames by Joslin Fiennes

9780719816529The Origins of English Surnames

Surnames carry the history of people in a very personal way. In England surnames were mostly established by the end of the fourteenth century – by ordinary people, for ordinary people. Uniquely, surnames describe medieval lives not captured by any other record. They tell us what these people did, where they went, what they noticed and give clues about their culture and memories.

This book examines the origins of English surnames, looking at: occupational names, locational names, or names that record places, nicknames  and personal names, names from the Continent and symbolic names.

Where genealogists and etymologists focus on single names, this book takes groups of names and explores what these say about the society that created them.

In The Origins of English Surnames you will find the English people at a key moment in history, revealing the way they spoke, the jokes they made,  and their memories of ancient cultures – all at a time when land-based feudalism was crumbling and people sought better lives.

Joslin Fiennes has an academic background in languages and economics, both of which inspired the idea of this book. She worked initially as a freelance writer in Africa before moving to the United States and becoming an economist, working on countries in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Since returning to the UK, Joslin has been a magistrate and school governor.

Buy your copy of The Origins of English Surnames here.

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New non-fiction: The British Wildlife Year by Dominic Couzens

9780719811852The British Wildlife Year

In this unique book Dominic Couzens provides a precise record of what happens in the natural world in Britain for each week of the year.

What sets this book apart from other wildlife books is that it includes individual ‘diaries’ for all the common animals, from foxes, badgers and hedgehogs to blue tits and honey bees.

The book also covers aquatic life, from stickleback spawn to salmon, as well as plants, including the best time to pick blackberries. The author includes monthly highlights of what to look out for and where, including where to see the best wildlife events and displays.

From the best time to view the flowering of a bluebell wood to understanding the secretive ‘flower dance’ of bees, the book illustrates and explains the natural world around us. With tips and suggestions on places to visit and activities to take part in, this is an engaging book for all wildlife enthusiasts.

The British Wildlife Year is as absorbing and surprising as the wildlife that it describes.

Dominic Couzens is one of Britain’s best known writers on birds and wildlife. He has produced numerous books, including The Secret Lives of Garden Birds, Extreme Birds, The Secret Lives of Garden Wildlife and the travel memoir My Family and 50 Other Animals. His last book for Robert Hale was A Patch Made in Heaven (2012). He has often been involved in television programmes both as a consultant and on-screen, including BBC Autumnwatch, Snowwatch and The Animals’ Guide to Britain.

Buy your copy of The British Wildlife Year here.

New non-fiction: Mario Lanza: A Life in Pictures by Derek Mannering

9780719817991Mario Lanza: A Life in Pictures

Mario Lanza: A Life in Pictures is a stunning collection of photographs and illustrations that captures the fabulous and tumultuous times of the greatest romantic tenor of the twentieth century.

Compiled by acclaimed Lanza biographer Derek Mannering and drawing on exclusive photographs from the tenor’s closest friend, Terry Robinson, the book offers an unrivalled pictorial history of the tenor’s extraordinary life and career, from his childhood in Philadelphia, his first tentative steps towards a career in opera, the unexpected about-turn that led to his glory days in Hollywood, and on to his sudden and tragic death in Rome in 1959.

Complementing the rare photographs is Derek Mannering’s authoritative and compelling narrative together with personal comments by Terry Robinson throughout. The book concludes with an afterword by Mario Lanza’s daughter, Ellisa Lanza Bregman.

Few careers in show business have been as colourful or as controversial as Mario Lanza’s. Groomed for a professional life on the operatic stage, Lanza was instead waylaid by Hollywood where, in films like The Great Caruso, he thrilled movie-goers with his magnificent voice and dazzling personality. His films and recordings were highly influential in shaping the careers of countless young opera singers and to this day Lanza continues to be seen as the crossover artist supreme.

Derek Mannering was born in Dublin, Ireland, and currently lives in the USA. He is the author of Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Mario Lanza: A Life in Pictures here.

New fiction (Buried River Press): Squeezed by David Atkinson

Squeezed CMYKSqueezed

If your wife organized a threesome for you on your honeymoon, what would you do?

Scott is shocked by his wife Hannah’s suggestion, but hesitantly agrees to go along with it. Back home, both feel a little guilty about their encounter with a Thai prostitute called Marilyn, but soon put it behind them when they discover Hannah is pregnant. They must both fight to keep their family together when Marilyn turns up on their doorstep, six months pregnant, and Scott comes to realize that in life there is often a price to pay for indiscretion. Squeezed is a story about family, and how sometimes we don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone.

David Atkinson

David Atkinson was born in Glasgow, but now enjoys a hectic life in Edinburgh with his wife and two young daughters. His adopted city provides him with much of his writing inspiration; enjoying particularly the areas of Portobello, Newhaven and Duddingston. His first novel Love Byte was also published by Robert Hale and has been shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award 2015 by the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Find out more about David and his books by visiting www.davidatkinsonauthor.com

Praise for Love Byte

Shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award 2015 by the Romantic Novelists’ Association

‘A story with laugh out loud moments, heart rending events and a nice easy flowing style’ –Trip Fiction

‘Anyone who likes their romance with a touch of realism and not too much syrup will adore this book’ –Read Reviewed

Buy your copy of Squeezed here.

New fiction (Buried River Press): Cicely’s Sovereign Secret by Sandra Heath Wilson

Cicely's Sovereign Secret CMYKCicely’s Sovereign Secret

Lancastrian King Henry VII has a dark secret, a secret that his Yorkist foe, Jack de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, is determined to discover. But Jack is killed by Henry’s uncle, Viscount Welles. For Lady Cicely Plantagenet, this is a double tragedy, because Jack is her adored cousin and passionate lover, and Jon Welles is her treasured husband.

Cicely is once again lured into danger and intrigue in the royal court and in the streets of London. She does not know who is truly a friend, and who is an enemy. Above all she does not know Henry’s secret, a matter so heinous it could topple him from the throne.

Sandra Heath Wilson

Sandra was born in South Wales, but spent a great deal of her childhood in Ulster and Germany. She has lived in Gloucestershire since marrying forty years ago. Her other books, also published by Robert Hale, include her Regency novels The Makeshift Marriage, Lady Jane’s Ribbons and Hide and Seek.

‘Cicely was really brought to life, with her heart and soul bursting from the pages.’ – Novelicious

‘Beautifully told, heart-wrenching at times, joyous at others…impeccable research coupled with outstanding detail and intense dialogue truly bring the 15th century alive in the reader’s mind.’ – Historical Novel Review

Buy your copy of Cicely’s Sovereign Secret here.

Up the winding stair and an affair gone wrong: when love – or lust – becomes dangerous

by Pam Fudge and Millie Vigor

Pam FudgeMillie Vigor 3

In this double author post, Millie and Pam talk to us about their upcoming books, The Winding Stair and Not My Affair. Both novels deal with the themes of obsession and a woman who is being harassed and stalked, either by a man who doesn’t know how to express his love in the right way, or her husband’s mistress who simply won’t let her lover remain with his wife.

NOT MY AFFAIR – Pam Fudge

Unsurprisingly, this is about an affair, an affair that comes to light on Christmas day because of a careless mistake on the part of the adulterer, Fay’s husband Jack. There are two ways forward for the couple at this point. They are that the affair heralds the end of the marriage or Fay and Jack can decide to work together and begin to repair the damage the infidelity has caused to the relationship but, of course, it is rarely that simple, and it certainly isn’t that simple in Not My Affair.

THE WINDING STAIR – Millie Vigor

Trying to get an anonymous suitor to stop phoning her and leaving her red roses, Ginny leaves her hometown for a short break, only to be found again. She returns home and is befriended by local librarian Curtis. When he invites her into his house, she discovers her trust has been misplaced when he traps her inside. Reminded of Mary Howett’s poem, ‘The Spider and the Fly’ in which the spider persuades the fly to walk up his winding stair, Ginny wonders if she’ll walk free or perish like the fly.

Millie Vigor: One of the questions an author is often asked is, ‘What inspired you to write that story?’ The inspiration for The Winding Stair came first from an item of news about a young woman who had gone missing without trace, and secondly from the content of a book I had read. ‘The Spider and the Fly’ by Mary Howett also plays a part. “Will you walk into my parlour, said the spider to the fly” and “the way into my parlour is up a winding stair”. That is just what Ginny had done; she had walked up the steps and into Curtis’s house to borrow a book.

Pam Fudge:  I think we’ve all met or read about someone who is quite scary in their determination to get their own way – no matter who gets hurt – so it was a compilation of remembered snippets from real life and fiction that were my inspiration. Not My Affair came to me, as my ideas often do, from the kind of problems that beset even the best of families. I knew that Jack’s affair was going to come to light right at the start – on the first page as it happens – but I hadn’t planned much more than that when I started to write. I am not a meticulous plotter, but like to see how the story and characters develop and I absolutely loved the way that Not My Affair really took off in ways that I hadn’t imagined.

9780719818134

MV: ‘What if?’ questions began. What if Ginny, my main character in The Winding Stair had been abducted and imprisoned by Curtis, a young man who had fallen in love with her and wanted her for himself? What if he lacked the social skills required and thought that if he locked her up, but was kind to her, that she would grow to love him? But what if the trauma in that young man’s early life had warped his mind to such an extent that his personality had split and divided into many others? What if he had developed Multiple Personality Disorder?

PF: The ‘what ifs’ that Millie mentions are such a great writer’s tool and it was a very early ‘what if?’ that determined Iona was going to be one mistress who had no intention of simply fading away. I didn’t so much choose Iona for the role she was to play, as have her present herself to me at quite an early point in the story and give an indication of what she might be capable of.

MV: I found the idea of a person morphing into another personality fascinating so to research the condition, I read all I could about it. Consciously or not, we all tend to present different faces to whoever we are with, but that’s where it stops. Not so with Multiple Personality Disorder. The condition is believed to be brought on by serious mental or physical abuse in early childhood. When Ginny defies her captor, Curtis changes dramatically into the violent character of Mikhail and she is forced to adjust her attitude towards him. Then Angel appears who says that she is the protector and that there are others. From then on Ginny never knows who will come through the door of her cell. In an odd sort of way this is a love story, for Curtis is genuinely in love with Ginny, but is mistaken in the way he pursues her and instead of drawing her to him he repulses her.

PF: I feel that reading Not My Affair would make women – and men, too – a lot more alert and aware of the possible dangers that can be the result of thoughtless actions. My research opened my eyes to what constitutes stalking/harassment and hopefully it will open the eyes of my readers, too, because some may be suffering in a similar way to Fay and realise there are laws in place to protect the innocent.9780719817625

MV: I hope my readers will sympathise with both main characters. One was not given the guiding hand of loving parents as a child. The other did not look deeply enough into the character of her friends. The meeting of Ginny and Curtis was a recipe for disaster.

PF: After reading Not My Affair, I would like my readers to feel they have been on a journey that has kept them on the edge of their seat at times – though there are lighter moments, too.

MV: The message overall is to not be too quick to trust ready smiles and sweet words. Honey means bees and bees can sting.

The Winding Stair will be published by Robert Hale on 31st October 2015, and Not My Affair on 30th November 2015.

For more information on the prevention of harassment and stalking, you may find the following links helpful:

http://www.stalkinghelpline.org

http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/stalking.php

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-victims/ive-been-affected/stalking-and-harassment

New general fiction

9780719816253An Unholy Whiff of Death by Joyce Cato

When asked to judge the neighbouring village’s Flower Show, vicar’s wife Monica Noble is thrilled, even if she can’t tell a begonia from an azalea! This year, competition is fierce, and when her fellow judge, a well-liked vicar, is killed, Monica must wake up and smell the roses. A second murder quickly follows, this time a local scientist. Monica must help the local detective to solve the two murders and find the killer – quickly, before anyone else dies.

Joyce Cato was born in Oxford and worked as a secretary before becoming a full-time writer.

Buy your copy of An Unholy Whiff of Death here.

9780719817649Cardinal Obsession by Roy Lewis

D.C.I. Cardinal’s plans to smash the gang of his old adversary Gus Clifford are thwarted by the discovery of a dead man in Northumberland. He assigns D.S. Grout to investigate the murder while he continues to lead the hunt for Clifford. Grout’s investigation begins at Hadrian’s Wall but a second murder leads both men to the centre of an international art-smuggling organization on the Bodensee. Cardinal and Grout must uncover the identity of the killer before he strikes again, and stop the Clifford gang.

Roy Lewis is a well-established crime writer with over sixty novels to his name. A former college principal and inspector of schools, he now runs business training programs and lives in the North of England, where he sets many of his books.

Buy your copy of Cardinal Obsession here.

Inspector Abberline and the Just King by Simon Clark9780719816567

1890: A killer stalks the Isle of Faxfleet – a tiny, independent kingdom on the River Humber in Yorkshire. Faxfleet is inhabited by eccentrics, oddballs and Victorian dropouts, and is ruled by King Ludwig, a man obsessed with creating an academy of geniuses. When one of the academy members is killed by an arrow while climbing a tree, Scotland Yard despatches Inspector Abberline, the world-famous ‘Ripper Detective’, and his assistant Thomas Lloyd, to investigate. The case is as fascinating as it is perplexing, and leads to a series of decidedly peculiar crimes and a thrilling climax that plunges both men into danger.

Since selling his first ghost story to a radio station as a teenager, Simon Clark has had a prolific career as a horror writer. His previous novels include This Rage of Echoes and Midnight Bazaar – A Secret Arcade of Strange and Eerie Tales, also published by Robert Hale. Having previously worked as both a strawberry-picker and a shelf-stacker, Simon Clark now writes full-time and has won a British Fantasy Society Award for his work.

Buy your copy of Inspector Abberline and the Just King here.

9780719816079The Work of a Narrow Mind by Faith Martin

When ex-DI Hillary Greene, now working for the cold-case squad, is assigned to the tragic murder of an old woman, she’s determined to track down the killer. But with her partner pressing for an answer to his proposal of marriage, and a new boss, it won’t be easy, especially as her team’s newest addition seems to have his own agenda for being there – an agenda that’s leading him into big trouble. Luckily Hillary’s a multi-tasker – nobody is going to get away with murder on her watch.

Faith Martin was born in Oxford. She began her working life as a secretary but left to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. A Narrow Victory is the latest book in the thrilling Hillary Greene series.

Buy your copy of The Work of a Narrow Mind here.

Snail racing, perilous sleeping and close shaves to be found in Foster’s Welsh Oddities

9780719817540by Allen Foster

Did you know about the woman who accidentally swallowed a toothbrush? The dream that saved the life of a traveller in peril? The dog that accidentally shot its master? The girl who sleepwalked barefooted for four miles? The sailor who was washed overboard by a wave during a storm and washed back on board by another large wave? The woman who grew a four inch horn on her forehead? Neither did I until I started looking for remarkable Welsh oddities!

I have always had a fascination for odd facts since I became enamoured of the wonderful Ripley’s Believe It or Not television series starring Jack Palance many years ago. Since I loved to read of curious oddities I began to research and collect them. In the past few years I have written several books on the oddities and curious stories of Ireland, England, Scotland and Australia and it was only natural that I turn my gaze towards Wales – not least because my agent is a proud Welshman who encouraged me to do so! Unfortunately I never made it to Wales on a research trip. Instead I had to make do researching through old newspapers, magazines and books. This can be tiresome at times and involves a great deal of research before suitable gems are mined. It is always worth it when I find some extraordinary story and I never cease to be amazed by what I discover. Wales can certainly compete with any other country for bizarre oddities.

I am particularly fond of stories of close shaves and was lucky enough to find several Welsh tales.

Anne Williams was crossing a wooden bridge that spanned the River Usk at Caerleon on the night of 29 October 1772 when a large surge destroyed the bridge and bore away a large piece of the bridge with her on it. The poor woman clung to the railing and screamed for help. The bridge section was later smashed to pieces against another bridge downstream, but Anne managed to straddle a beam and stay safe. When the beam was swept down the river Anne resigned herself to being swept out to sea. When she saw a flickering light in a barge she shouted for help, and the occupants heard her and chased after the poor woman in a row boat. By the time they reached and rescued Anne they were almost at the mouth of the river.

A man literally escaped by a hair’s-breadth on 13 May 1869 after a train passed over him while he lay asleep on the track. The incident happened on the track between Bala and Dolgellau. About a mile and a half from Dolgellau the train was speeding down an incline when the train driver suddenly caught sight of a man, apparently fast asleep, lying with his head on the iron rails. The driver frantically blew the whistle to warn the man and tried to slow down the train to give him time to roll away. None of the driver’s efforts made any difference. The sleeping man did not stir and it looked certain that a shocking fatality would occur. By a stroke of luck, the man turned his head slightly just as the engine wheels reached him, and the train passed over him, only severing some hair from his head. Awakened by the noise of the passing train, the man saw the terrible fate he had just escaped and fled down the track.

The bravery of individuals such as the Anglesey fishermen who tied a rope around a whale stranded near the Menai Bridge on 9 December 1883 and fastened it to a boat can only be marvelled at. They were trying to kill the creature when the tide returned and the whale took off at speed, towing the boat and the four men, who were terrified at the unexpected turn of events. The boat nearly capsized several times before the whale beached itself again. This time the whale was dragged out of the water’s reach and it died soon afterwards.

In more recent times, the bravery of Stuart Crane from Carmarthen who was impaled by a large wooden post when his car crashed in November 2000 is astonishing. The accident happened at night and Stuart calmly phoned the emergency services and guided them to his location when they could not find him in the dark. Stuart suffered enormous injuries, but four months later was allowed home.

I also love quirky characters such as Dr Richard Griffiths (1758-1826). He was a wealthy eccentric from Llanwonno, a hamlet north of Pontypridd, Glamorganshire, who once won five hundred guineas on a snail race, by an underhanded trick. He fooled his opponent, pretending to prick his snail to make it go faster. The other man followed suit and actually pricked his snail, making it curl up and come to a standstill. Griffiths had a mischievous sense of humour. He left eccentric instructions for his funeral, directing that he was to be carried by six specifically named people, who were all lame.

I have been writing books of oddities for some years now and including this Welsh volume, have had six published so far. I don’t know when I will stop, for there is always more interesting stories to be found and I have a lot of research material to delve into. I know such obscure information or where to find it I can research a book by categories of oddities. For example, there is scarcely a country that a parachutist has not survived an incredible fall from thousands of feet if their parachute has not opened up! I would love to write more oddities books, for I never get tired of finding new gems of oddities that fascinate me.

Foster’s Welsh Oddities will be published by Robert Hale on 30 September.

 

 

New fiction titles

9780719817403Avalon Castle by Rosemary Craddock

Avalon Castle is a disturbing place. Built by eccentric Ambrose
Blackwood, and inhabited by the rest of his extended dysfunctional
family, it holds some dark secrets. Rachel visits her half-sister in the Christmas of 1867, finding a house of family feuding, hauntings and disappearances. Ambrose and his brother Nikolas are unnerving hosts, and any chance of festivity is destroyed when a member of the household suddenly dies. Questions begin to pile up: who are the strange Blackwood family, and what skeletons are hiding in their vast Gothic house? With neighbour William Norton’s help, Rachel tries to prove her suspicions of foul play, and get out of the castle alive.

Rosemary Craddock was born in Staffordshire and has lived there
most of her life. She has been writing since childhood and has
published many novels, most of them set in the nineteenth century and
full of mystery, romance and intrigue. Her previous novel The
Lovegrove Hermit was published by Robert Hale in 2013.

Buy your copy of Avalon Castle here.

9780719817571Dark Powers by Raymond Haigh

In freeing a young girl from a secure children’s unit, special agent Samantha Quest is taking on the most powerful men in the country. The sixteen year-old girl has filmed an incident on her mobile phone which could bring down the government. The girl is Annushka Dvoskin, daughter of a powerful Russian oligarch. Unknown to Samantha, his enemies dispatch a team of hitmen to murder her and her charge. In this novel of wealth and corruption, the great and the privileged will do anything to protect their power. As the killers race to find the girls, Samantha and Annushka must outwit them.

Raymond Haigh was born in Doncaster where he went on to work in local government design departments. He is married with four children and seven grandchildren.

Buy your copy of Dark Powers here.

9780719817410Deep Waters by Ann Cliff

Industry in Yorkshire is booming and the cities are expanding.
Which of the rural valleys is doomed to be flooded next to quench
the cities’ thirst? Rachel Garnett is determined to fight against
engineer Roger Beckwith and his plans for a reservoir that will
engulf Firby valley. Firby Hall, where Rachel works, will be demolished when the reservoir is built. She convinces the owner not to sell, but when he dies, sole heir Guy Potts looks set to ruin Rachel’s careful work. Rachel must fight on, before her home is destroyed.

Ann Cliff was born in Yorkshire and brought up in a farming family.
Despite currently living in Australia, she writes frequently about
nineteenth century Yorkshire and her previous novels, which include
Summer by the Sea, Poacher’s Moon and Raven’s Gold, are also
published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Deep Waters here.

9780719817052Moorland Mist by Gwen Kirkwood

Emma Greig has seen little of the world when she leaves school at
fourteen to become a maid at Bonnybrae Farm. The Sinclair family
in turn welcome and reject her: Maggie is kind and warm, and her
brothers Jim and William tease Emma. Mrs Sinclair, disturbed by
her children’s friendship with the maid, resolves to remind Emma of her place. When Emma and William form a close bond, unforeseen circumstances force Emma to be sent away, and William banished from the farm he loves. Will their connection be strong enough to reunite them?

Gwen Kirkwood was born, and educated, in Yorkshire but moved to
Scotland to work. After meeting her husband, a Scottish dairy farmer,
she has spent most of her adult life north of the Border. Gwen has
three children and six grandchildren. With a background in farming
she has also written many family sagas and also romantic fiction
novels. Another Home, Another Love, Darkest Before the Dawn and
Beyond Reason are also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Moorland Mist here.

Ivory by Maggie Campbell Pedersen

Ivory

Ivory has been held in the highest esteem for millennia. This comprehensive and authoritative study of this beautiful and versatile material provides a global history of ivory worldwide – from the myths and beliefs held by prehistoric man, through its utilitarian uses in the Arctic and the beautiful carvings in medieval Europe, to its links with war, the slave trade, and religion.
Covering in detail its composition and unique properties, its sources in the animal kingdom and their conservation status, the book demonstrates how ageing and the different types of ivory and its imitations can be tested for and identified with confidence.
Ivory also explores how it has been worked by craftsmen and used over the years, from carving and marquetry to the manufacture of black paint, as well as the methods employed. Sound advice and useful tips are provided on caring for ivory, with examples, covering specific areas, including stains, scratches, cracks, cleaning and repair.
Lavishly illustrated throughout with colour photographs, Ivory is an invaluable guide for collectors, antique dealers, curators, gemmologists, conservationists and frequenters of flea markets, as well as those who simply love this attractive material.

Maggie Campbell Pedersen is a qualified gemmologist specializing in organic gem materials. Her work includes identifications, teaching, writing, and constant research into all aspects of the subject.
Maggie is an accredited lecturer for NADFAS (the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies) and a regular contributor to Gems and Jewellery, the journal of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. She is the author of the book Gem and Ornamental Materials of Organic Origin (Robert Hale, 2004) and the editor of Organic Gems, an online reference source and information centre.
Maggie is also a qualified commercial/industrial photographer, and through her love of animals has worked in many places, assisting in conservation, studying elephants, cheetahs and a variety of other animals.

Buy your copy of Ivory here