writing

Mystery of the Princes in the Tower Revealed

The Princes in the Tower: the traditional history
For the first time since their disappearance from the Tower of London in 1483, new groundbreaking evidence for the Princes in the Tower’s survival into the reign of Henry Tudor is more compelling than the evidence against.

The recent documentary aired on Channel4 laid out the bones for an alternative narrative surrounding the 540 year old mystery of the disappearance of Edward V and Richard Duke of York – the Princes in the Tower.

 

Richard III – not the wicked uncle

The traditional view that Richard III murdered his young nephews has long held sway in the public imagination and persisted among some academic circles; but this has been challenged by a number of historians and many of those who believe that the princes survived their uncle’s reign. Until now, however, a lack of firm evidence had such views dismissed as far-fetched or wishful thinking.

Philippa Langley and Rob Rinder

Now, after extensive research in Continental archives by a team of researchers led by Philippa Langley,  and with the knowledgable contribution of historian  and Chair of the Richard III Society – Matthew Lewis – grains of truth finally grind the clumsy cogs of Tudor myth as new documentary evidence surfaces to throw light on this age old enigma. Even so, plenty of individuals will no doubt deny the plausibility of the latest findings that has set received history on its head. 

Henry VII – the new villain?

It stretches credibility beyond breaking point to believe that four different sources from various geographic locations and events, surviving in disparate archives today and relating to the same missing individuals and more closely contemporary to them than any hitherto, could possibly all be forgeries or about conveniently invented imposters.  No.  They are authentic accidental survivals of seeming inconsequence when seen alone, but vice-like when set together around their own close events.  

The authenticity is redoubled by the inconvenience of their consequences, not just for the previously accepted Tudor account, but for the Plantagenet one too.  Richard III is no longer the princes’ killer, but his protection of them adds new ambiguity.  Was it his hope that his sister – Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy – would hide and protect them for an (as yet) unclear future purpose? 

It is hoped that many more incidental documents that, until now have resided in Continental archives, will illuminate the motives behind the boys’ disappearance. Time will reveal all.

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-princes-in-the-tower-the-new-evidence

 

If You Want To Understand People, Study Hens

If you want to understand people, study hens seems perfectly reasonable advice to me, at least, it does now.

In terms of life ambitions, I have had a few. I wanted a smallholding since my early teenage years. This desire developed after my burning interest in medieval history, but before I became involved in specialist education and long before I began to write. In terms of outcomes, the smallholding lagged way behind and only became possible once we moved to somewhere with a big enough garden. Even then, my attempts to husband the land have been somewhat thwarted by the horrendous soil we have here. But chickens – yes, chickens – have headed the list of to-dos and, ten days ago, 8 feathered ladies arrived to take up residence in their new home.

I put my interest down to my DNA inherited from generations of farmers. Working the land and being close to all that is green and growing, mooing, and crowing, must somehow have become embedded in my psyche because my birthday wish-list as a fourteen year old included a book on self-sufficiency by John Seymour. I have it still, looking a bit tatty around the edges, but no less loved.

Which brings me back to chickens – or to Matilda, to be precise – the dippiest hen I have ever met. Matilda is one of two Chamois Laced Padovanas and 6 other hens from https://www.pipinchicksilkies.com/live-poultry-shop/and I’ll no doubt be writing more about her in the future. She is joined by her sister – Myrtle, two Lemon Laced Padovanas (who have yet to be named), two big Gold Laced Wyandotte girls – Big Sue and Little Sue – and the two pencilled Wyandotte bantams – the youngest of the bunch. Small the bantams might be, but they have fearsome personalities.

What do hens have to do with writing, you might ask? Everything and nothing. For one thing, they make a marvellous foil to sitting and writing, and for another, time spent in their company inspires a surprising number of  ideas for character traits. The question is, do I really want a chilly Felice Langton or a moany Joan in my flock? Thankfully, none of my ladies appear to be that way inclined, even if Big Sue does get a bit picky now and again. The upshot is: if you want to understand people, study hens.

 

 

 

 

 

CF Dunn is an award-winning novelist of history, mystery and suspense. 

She is currently writing The Tarnished Crown series, the first of which, Wheel of Fortune, is described by novelist, Elizabeth Chadwick as ‘The best Wars of the Roses novel I have ever read.’.

Now living in the South West of England, her love of history is equalled only by her delight in the natural world and the unruly sea by which she lives with her family and assorted animals in suitably rambling historic surroundings.

 

 

Countdown to Book Launch Begins

The countdown to the book launch has begun with just over two weeks to go until Wheel of Fortune‘s release. And I’m still waiting for delivery of the books. It’s always the same at this point – the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ trepidation, those first-night nerves. This is the sixth book launch I’ve done since 2012 and I’ve never not had the books for the big day. There’s always the risk that the much anticipated box won’t arrive in time, that the distributer has mislaid the order. Or perhaps the lorry has been waylaid by book-loving gremlins en route… No, that last is implausible. Gremlins don’t read.

Meanwhile, preparations continue apace. Not only is Wheel of Fortune due for release by Resolute Books on 20th May, but my good friend and author, Paul Trembling, is launching the latest instalment in his Local series – Local Killer – on the same day. I had the privilege of seeing an ARC  (Advance Reader Copy) of Local Killer a while back and it is a cracking read. I’ll be writing a full review of Local Killer shortly.

It struck me how different our writing styles are, reflecting the different genera in which we write. His – taut, sparse, tense – the epitome of great crime thriller writing. Mine – with tension woven throughout a longer, multi-layered narrative, where the historical landscape is peopled by complex personalities negotiating a web of political and personal dilemmas. The varied styles of   authors writing in different genera is one of the aspects of literature I find so enjoyable – mystery, suspense, thrillers and, of course, history – set in any location and in any period. When it comes down to it – and whatever the genre – it’s all about story.

There is one type of story of which I am not particularly fond, the one where the author has a queue of eager readers waiting for a signed copy of her book – and an empty table. I haven’t read that story yet and I’m determined not to write it. Roll on 20th May and my box of books!

 

Local Killer by Paul Trembling and Wheel of Fortune by C.F. Dunn are published through Resolute Books on 20th May 2023

5* NEW BOOK REVIEW for WHEEL OF FORTUNE

Only one week to go until the book launch and  WHEEL OF FORTUNE has a 5* review!

 

‘CF Dunn’s strong, hard-hitting narrative is also often intensely lyrical and poetic. I found every aspect of this novel utterly compelling.’

author SC Skillman 

Find  the full review here at https://scskillman.com/blog-scskillman-writer-psychological-paranormal-mystery-fiction-young-adults-and-new-adults/

 

The Last Egg

How do you react when you’ve been writing all day and Child Two presents you with The Golden Egg, single-origin 60% cocoa, from chocolatiers Cocoa & Co?

Rear Window: A Room With A View

From the rear window I can see the world outside changing. I’ve been laid up for the last five weeks with a plate holding my fibula together and my broken ankle pinned. It’s the last time I’ll be litter-picking on the coastal footpath for a while. Since that interesting episode in early March, winter has drifted into spring. In a normal year I would flow with it, planting and sowing according to the week and the weather, but my recent accident has taken me down another road. 

So, here I am, watching the tips of branches swell into tiny leaves of vivid green and glowing burgundy. Early prunus blossom has given way to blackthorn egg-white froth, and soon the ballerina-pink, double-flowered ornamental cherries will steal the show. Beyond the garden, I can see the Dorset hills greening under the persistent sun where, not long ago, brown-ribbed earth sported dots of white seagulls.

Snow, rain or milk-mist, the ever-changing landscape is a reminder of life’s fragile persistence. For me, writing without reference to the natural world would be to ignore the foundation of our existence. Whether now or a thousand years ago, the patterns of the seasons are tracked by our senses. Without conscious thought, tendrils of nature wind their way onto the page to anchor fiction in reality. Where would I rather be if being there meant not pausing to look, absorb, breathe? Here I am, trapped by circumstance, but free to see.

Illuminated by the roving sun or silhouetted by the moon, the scene encapsulated by my window never ceases to capture my imagination and my heart.

How Practice and Experience Improved One Author’s Craft.

Can practice and experience improve an author’s craft?As I write this I am about a quarter of the way through the first draft of my latest book. It is the eighth I’ve written and the third in The Tarnished Crown quartet. If numbers add up to anything you might expect the process to become easier with time, but does it?  In my case the answer is yes. And no. I’ll deal with the yes first.

Since embarking on my first novel, Mortal Fire, in 2009, I’ve encountered many slings and arrows along the way; but I’ve also seen positive changes in the way I approch my writing. As an aidemémoire for those moments of doubt, I’ve come up with an (admittedly) incomplete list of the benefits garnered from years of writing:

  • Understanding how novels work in my genres of historical fiction and romantic mystery-suspense takes much of the gueswork out of plot and structure. This has come with experience and being open to learning and refining aspects of the craft.
  • I’ve developed my own written language style. I didn’t know what it was before I began my first novel, but I do now. That’s a plus. Writing increases confidence in your own unique voice – the one that identifies your work as, well, yours.
  • I know what to expect of my writing journey. Since producing my first book in the euphoria of ignorance, I now realise that size really does matter. A 350,000 word book is not going to appeal to a publisher no matter how well it is written. My books are still long, but they are now within the range of what is acceptable for historical novels.
  • I have an idea of how long it will take me to produce the next volume. I reckon on the first draft taking a year – give or take a few months for moving house, Christmas and other such eventualities.
  • I’ve worked out what daily routine works best for me and plan my schedules accordingly. Emails get answered in the morning, then it’s  gardening, cooking, or household maintenance (DIY, restoration, cleaning) all before early-afternoon. From then onwards I write until at least 7pm and woe betide any interruptions or interruptors.
  • Over the last decade I’ve concluded that editing is preferable to writing the first draft. I like to have the backbone of the story done before fleshing it out and adding the details that provide richness and depth. The first draft can be a bit of a white-knuckle ride, an adrenaline rush before relaxing into the second draft.
  • The subsequent books in a series tend to be easier to write because the fictional world and its inhabitants have been established already.
  • It has been a real eye-opener working with publishers and seeing the world from their perspective. They are the ones producing and selling your books, so it helps the relationship if you have an insider’s view on what sells, how books are marketed and how you can help the process.
  • Marketing and self-promotion – ah, yes, two things writers are urged to embrace with all the enthusiasm of a convert. I have yet to conquer social media and I confess I’d rather be writing than Tweeting, but I am working on improving my understanding of such things. I have already learned a tremendous amount, made many good friends, and sold books to readers across the globe who enjoy my work. That can’t be bad.

So much for experience helping with aspects of writing a new book and all that goes with it, but what continues to be tricky?

The actual slog of writing is much the same whether it is your first, tenth or last book. It requires mental effort, discipline and, not to put too fine a point on it, bum-glue. Yes, without dedicated time at your desktop or with your quill, that book will not get written. Accept it and buy a decent chair that supports your back.

The snakes and ladders of writing are just the same whichever book you write. You start off on an anticipatory sprint, slow down to a jog, before mooching about in the mire in the middle. Pulling yourself out is tough, but once over that hump and peering at the finishing line, you’re almost there. N.B. Write that down and remember it for the next book you write. There will always be ups and downs – plough on.

For many writers, including me, self-doubt is the elephant in the room. Learning to open the door and invite it to step outside is the one thing you can do for yourself.  Recognise the doubts, analyse them for what they are, and then give them the boot.

Looking back, I’m struck not by how much easier writing each book has become – and it has – but the confidence that has grown out of tackling each new project. In a note to myself, I must remember that and, before embarking on the next novel with all those snakes and elephants, repeat the words made famous by Chief Dan George in the film  The Outlaw Josey Wales:

                             When in doubt I must ‘endeavour to persevere’.

 

 

 

 

 

Of Compost & Writing

 

Between writing one chapter and the next I usually do something completely unrelated. At this time of year and on dry days it will be a gardening task. Over the last few months I’ve been tidying winter’s detritus from around the kitchen garden, scooping up leaves and worms and putting them in a safe heap to get on with making lovely, friable compost.

Meanwhile, I’ll be plotting the planting of the vegetables while planting the plots for the next chapter. Both require gentle handling and time to compost, although the outcomes are completely different.

Following Breadcrumbs: Tracing Historical People

 

Tickhill Castle, print

 Sir Hugh Hastings, de jure 10th baron Hastings, (c1447 – 7th June, 1488) is one of those tantalising figures that populates C15th English history. We have scant information about the man and I have been unable to trace an image of him. The little we do have leaves a trail of breadcrumbs that leads to notable people and events. We know he was knighted and acted as Sheriff of Yorkshire (1479 – 1480), and that he was also steward of Tickhill castle, near Doncaster, Yorkshire. This is where he enters my orbit of interest.

 
Elsing Hall, Norfolk, built C1470
Son of Sir John Hastings (of Elsing Hall, Norfolk) and Anne Morley, Hugh married Anne Gascoigne (before 12 April 1455). Together they had five sons and six daughters who survived long enough to be named and noted.
 
From the Patent Rolls we gain a little more insight:
On 20th June, 1482, Hugh made a will. Given the date this, presumably, was before leaving with the invasion force to Scotland under the leadership of Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
On 25 May, 1484, Richard of Gloucester – now Richard III – rewarded Hugh Hastings for his services against the rebels in Buckingham’s rebellion. He granted him ‘the manors of Wells, Warham, Sheringham, and Wiveton, Norfolk, worth £101 6s. 7d. a year, to hold, in tail male, by military service, at a rent of £8 16s. 7d. a year.’ (Complete Peerage) What role he played is unknown. 
 
Hugh survived the change of regime in 1485 long enough to die where he was born, in Fenwick, West Yorkshire, on 7th June, 1488.
If time were not an issue, if I had lifetimes to spend on research, it is people such as Hugh Hastings I might choose to study. Theirs is a voice seldom heard.
I am currently working on The Tarnished Crown trilogy, a historical suspense set during the turbulent years of the 15th century in the period we now call The Wars of the Roses. Blood will out.