This diary works the other way from most - newest entries are at the bottom. I have deleted many old entries, so it starts rather abruptly, as I make space for new entries by deleting early ones.
12th July 2017
A lazy summer so far, with better weather than usual. My deserted acres have turned into a breathtakingly lovely old-fashioned meadow, with a great variety of flowers, and far fewer nasty thistles and nettles than expected. Another long-dreamed-of project has finally been accomplished. There was a massive stone sitting in a ditch at the bottom of my big field. It weighs 1.5 tonnes, and measures five feet by six. Thanks to a brilliant stone expert it is now a huge garden table. No idea what to do with it, but it looks fantastic.
The election seems ages ago now, but I did enjoy it.
I finished THE STAVELEY SUSPECT and have just started CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS. My Baring-Gould biography sells steadily and has been widely acclaimed. Other projects are on the stocks, but I'm spending some time in the Cevennes first with little Bunty (the dog). Towards the end of this year I'll probably settle down to THE GRASMERE GRIEVANCE. Thinking about crime in the auction rooms...
Had a most enjoyable event last night in Bromsgrove, as part of their festival. I attended a poetry reading of works by A.E.Housman in the afternoon, before doing a panel with two other crime writers. For a small town, Bromsgrove really aims high, and there's always something interesting and unusual going on. Housman is their local hero, and I learned a lot about his extremely compelling poetry.
PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS is due out at the end of August. Thea and Drew are hoping for a normal family life in Broad Campden, but events conspire against them...
17th October 2017
Something about the summer, evidently, that keeps me away from my poor website. I spent five weeks in France with Bunty, and then another six weeks or so catching up with all the jobs I'd neglected here. CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS has proceeded more slowly than usual, but the end is in sight, and I am enjoying it very much.
France was magical. I was in a little-known area, far from any big towns or cities, close to the top of a mountain. Various friends and relations joined me for a few days, but I also had time there on my own. All very lazy and self-indulgent, but I did a lot of exploring local villages, reading and eating.
The annual Baring-Gould Gathering was in Princetown on Dartmoor this year. The weather was much worse than usual, but we sallied out onto the Moor regardless. Also heard folk songs, and entertaining accounts of the fascinating archaeology and the unusual geology of the area. Very good food and lovely company enhanced the weekend. But a few hours before I got home, my elderly labrador Gracie died unexpectedly. It has taken me two weeks to adjust to the empty space in the house, and Bunty feels strange as an only dog. Both my daughters have dogs, who come here quite often, which helps - but there is now a vacancy for a new little dog.
I've had quite a spate of aspiring writers asking me to look at their work. The usual mixture of promising and sadly unpromising. It has always been apparent to me that a writer is a very unreliable judge of his or her own work - myself included. And my critiques inevitably carry a degree of subjectivity - despite a pretty fair grasp of the various elements needed for a good strong story. Suffice it to say that once in a while an aspirant refuses to take my remarks as they're intended, for whatever reason. Hence the additional warning on the relevant page of this website. Fragile egos, or excessive belief in one's own abilities, can result in their taking my brutally honest comments rather badly.
My friend Liz has been over here from Australia for several weeks, and we managed to get together for a discussion of our joint memoir, FOREVER FRIENDS. We lived together in London in the early seventies, and have travelled a lot together ever since. But our lives have diverged, and despite frequent long letters, there were areas that remained undisclosed to each other. This leads to questions as to exactly what should go into the book. We're approaching halfway and so far it has been great fun.
I think I'm renaming the next Lake District book, so it is now THE GRASMERE GRUDGE. I canvassed opinion at a talk I did a few days ago in Chester, and they were firmly in favour of the change.
Once again, I am resolved to make entries here somewhat more regularly.
23rd November 2017
I became abruptly housebound on 9th November, when I broke my ankle, simply by missing a step upstairs. Now I am reduced to crawling around on a zimmer for a while. There were many fortunate aspects to the whole drama. Firstly, it hasn't hurt much at all. Secondly, I had no plans to go anywhere anyway. Thirdly, I have been able to slob about on the sofa, reading and writing and entertaining visitors. I have discarded crutches as too insecure, and really not suited to my shape and the nature of the injury. When I finally get outside again, perhaps they'll work.
THE STAVELEY SUSPECT is in the final stages of production now, due out next spring. CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS is very nearly finished as well. I am reissuing a little-known collection of Baring-Gould short stories, called FURZE BLOOM, available early next year, I hope. The stories are funny, sad, revealing - all of them set on Dartmoor. My biography has been selling quite nicely, and I hope for a flurry next month. Biographies make excellent Christmas presents!
Very Novemberish weather, grey wet and windy this week. It really is no hardship to cuddle up with the dog and a book. I did start reading 'A Dance to the Music of Time' as did everybody else, but it isn't really holding my attention, sad to say.
Still receiving quite a few enthusiastic emails from readers. As always, much appreciated.
And in case I don't get back to this in the coming month - Happy Christmas everybody!
22nd January 2018
Inexcusably long gap, again. The winter has been grey and chilly at times, but the buds are swelling and the daffodils peeping. I am ambulatory again, and can drive, but my poor ankle remains stiff, and my pace of life is very much slower than it used to be.
Most exciting news is the birth of my new grand-daughter on 9th January. She lives very close by, so I have regular cuddles. There's nothing so magical as a newborn, just waking up to the world. Anything seems possible.
Not much new writing done. FOREVER FRIENDS is half finished, and is hugely enjoyable as an exercise in nostalgia. Reading mountains of old letters and diaries and so much that I'd forgotten! I remember hardly anything from the 1970s. I'm shortly to start on THE GRASMERE GRUDGE which is taking shape at the back of my mind. And next month I'm 'researching' the Coln Valley, with a view to placing SECRETS IN THE COTSWOLDS there. Research involves a visit to the local pub, and not much more than that. Little dog Bunty can come with me, pretending to be Hepzibah.
FURZE BLOOM by S. Baring-Gould is now available. It's a lovely little book. £7.00. Email me with orders. Or see the SBGAS website. www.sbgas.org should find it.
All for now. Off to see the baby again...
24th April 2018
Very slow to update the diary again. In fact, I've been slow all winter - blame the dark damp days. But I have written three-quarters of THE GRASMERE GRUDGE and am about to check the final proofs of CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS, so haven't been entirely idle. There are two public appearances coming up, as well. Cardiff and Teesside.
Baby Caitlin is flourishing and everyone is besotted. Her big brother is doing amazingly well at school. His mother receives postcards announcing his latest success, almost every week. A nice old-fashioned way of communicating!
Have been to France again for a few days, which was a refreshing change. But both my legs are sub-standard at the moment, so I'm frustratingly slow. A whole new experience for me.
Nothing else for the moment.Off to Devon later today on a Baring-Gould trip. Hope to sell more of the biography, which has had several excellent reviews.
15th June 2018
I've been travelling again. In May I took my grandson for a few days' break in Stoke-on-Trent. We learned about the Potteries and generally explored. Then I went to France again, foir a 9-day holiday in the Loire Valley. wonderful chateaux, containing fabulous old tapestries. Also saw the tomb of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and bought Alison Weir's novel about her. 'The Grasmere Grudge' is finished and delivered, and I'm about to make a start on 'Secrets in the Cotswolds'. No more trips until late August. It looks as if I'll be devoting many hours to mowing the long grass. It seems taller than ever this year. My apple trees are full of fruit, everything is flowering exuberantly.
1st November 2018
It's been a year of tremendous travels. After France in June, I stayed at home for 6 weeks enjoying the glorious summer, and being very lazy. Then there was a 3-week road trip, across America. This time, It was a 4400-mile route from Minneapolis to New Orleans, via several National Parks, with a friend. We hadn't travelled together very much, and there were inevitable tensions, but we both enjoyed the many experiences and sights. There have been numerous family parties, too. One daughter got married; the other turned 40 with a lovely outdoor celebration. I went to Ireland with my old friend Liz, meeting family members and discovering several new places, such as Kilkenny. Finally, Luke and I drove off to Liechtenstein, via France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A great adventure, which proved very instructive.
Writing has been a lot slower than usual, but SECRETS IN THE COTSWOLDS is approaching completion. I've been transcribing a lot of old family letters and diaries, before depositing them in a university archive. The Baring-Gould Appreciation Society has been wound up, after nearly 30 years. Several former members (including me) remain deeply enthusiastic about the man and his work, and there will probably be events centred on him in the future - and the website survives.
This is a very slender summary of the past 4 or 5 months, but perhaps better than nothing. I am still here, still writing, still more than happy to hear from readers.
1st February 2019
Once again, apologies for the delay. Partly due to software glitches preventing me from doing any editing. Sorted now, fingers crossed.
January went on for far too long, with grey days spent by the fire with the dogs. The only writing achieved was notes for a memoir based on my grandmother and mother, using the many thousands of letters I have in my possession.
I also checked proofs for the paperbacks of THE STAVELEY SUSPECT and CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS. They both take their respective series into fresh pastures and new challenges. The new hardbacks are finished. THE GRASMERE GRUDGE will be out in a few weeks, and SECRETS IN THE COTSWOLDS towards the end of the year.
Even greater excitement arose from an impulsive approach made to Sharpe Books about producing three of my non-crime titles, as ebooks and paperbacks. The result is that all three will be available shortly. THE INDIFFERENCE OF TUMBLEWEED has been given a new title - THE SPIRIT OF DESTINY, along with a new cover. The fact that it can be bought as a 'real' book is the best news, as far as I am concerned. It will be Print on Demand, which is not ideal, but I'm hoping for a big new readership as a result. Likewise THE SPOILS OF SIN, which is the story of two girls setting up as prostitutes in Oregon during the Gold Rush. Finally my Baring-Gould biography will also be available at a lower price than the hardback, but minus pictures and index. You get what you pay for...I will produce a repaginated index, to work with the paperback, and post it here on the website.
On a family note, my newest grandchild is now a year old, and her mum has gone back to work. Which leaves Granny in charge for one day a week. So far it has been an absolute joy. She's a cheerful, curious, co-operative little thing at the moment.
And now it's February, I must knuckle down and get going on THE PATTERDALE PLOT. All I know so far is that Simmy's parents will step forward as the main characters, with a murder that appears to be connected to conservation efforts in the lovely fells above Patterdale.
6th March 2019
My three new 'non-crime' paperbacks (described above) are now available on Amazon (and nowhere else). They're also sold as ebooks. The paperbacks are 'Print on Demand' which I have discovered is a very second rate system, with almost no decent production standards. Bookshops and libraries do not sell them, because there's no discount. I took a venture, as an experiment, and have learned quite a lot. The novels (Spirit of Destiny and Spoils of Sin) don't look too bad, but the Baring-Gould biography is embarrassingly awful. However, the content is all there, and the ebook is a good buy. The paperback is infinitely inferior to the hardback (still plenty of copies available from me - see Home Page of the website) but worth buying perhaps, just. If you do buy it, feel free to voice opinions about it, to Amazon and Sharpe Books - and me!
THE STAVELEY SUSPECT is now out in paperback, and THE GRASMERE GRUDGE in hardback. Simmy and Christopher are still together...and we see more of his auction house in action.
THE PATTERDALE PLOT is making good progress. Oh - and SECRETS IN THE COTSWOLDS is due out in the autumn. So it's all happening.
I'm still working through my mother's old diaries and letters and learning just how dire my parents' marriage was. Quite enlightening, as well as quite painful. These days, my father would be accused of 'coercive control'. But then, so would a lot of men in the 1940s and 50s - and beyond, I suppose. They got away with such very bad behaviour.
I'm impelled to try and 'raise awareness' of the extremely excessive use of bubblewrap by book distributors. I've just tweeted about it. One box of 20 advance author copies yielded a huge mountain of the stuff, quite incredible. Let's BAN BUBBLEWRAP!
Don't I sound curmudgeonly today! I'm also revelling in little Caitlin, the garden, planning travels and reading a lot of wonderful books. Currently enjoying 'Joseph Vance' by William de Morgan. It is absolute joy, funny, clever, slow and delicious. De Morgan wrote very good fiction, as well as making fabulous tiles and ceramics.
15th April 2019
Such cold weather! My grandson and I did a car boot yesterday and there was a freezing east wind. But we sold a lot of stuff, which is always satisfying. Not a single book, but a few pieces of china and lots of Luke's outgrown games. It's fun watching all the people and dogs. Makes nonsense of the talk about doing away with cash.
I'm over halfway through THE PATTERDALE PLOT and am enjoying it. I went up there recently for more local colour and discovered Hartsop and Crookaback, which are tiny settlements close to Patterdale. Started thinking about the next title - maybe The Hartsop Happening....?
Easter has been a long time coming this year. My daffodils are almost finished, and the Great Egg Hunt, which is now traditional in my jungly garden, will be amongst a lot of dead and dying flowers. Progress has been halted by the bitter winds we've had.
My Baring-Gould biography is shortly to appear as an ebook, on Amazon only. The two American historical novels are now back as they were - with the original title for the first one: THE INDIFFERENCE OF TUMBLEWEED. My experience with the would-be publisher who made a dreadful mess of the paperbacks turned out to be painful and frustrating, and is now firmly at an end. I am going to Montana again this summer, hoping to gather material for a third title in the series. It will be set in 1866, with the same characters, twenty years on from where we began. Other projects are simmering nicely. It looks as if I have another busy writing year ahead of me.
6th June 2019
After a fairly uneventful winter, life became rather turbulent from the 1st May. First a big oak tree blew over in my field. It didn't cause any damage, but was a major loss and a sad sight. Then I had car trouble, which turned into a mild adventure, partly due to my not possessing a mobile phone, or being covered for breakdowns. But I was duly rescued by kind people and all was well. Later in the month, my sister's daughter died, aged 38. A real tragedy. The funeral did not take place for three weeks, and was harrowing as expected. But I am still a staunch supporter of a full traditional funeral. Without it there would be no collective moment for expressing the great sadness we all felt, and still feel. I think the British do funerals better than almost any other culture. But I was sorely overloaded when the man who was my English teacher at school, 55 years ago, also died, the same week as my niece. I had kept in touch with him all my life. The funerals were consecutive days. My poor hanky had quite a soaking.
I have finished THE PATTERDALE PLOT. SECRETS IN THE COTSWOLDS is due out at the end of August. My ebooks are all restored to normal service. I'm intending to spend July writing non-crime fiction and memoirs, before starting the next Cotswolds title. The Montana trip is very soon now.
Long grass everywhere, with a host of wild creatures living in and above it. Lovely birds, hedgehogs, newts, and small rodents all live here on my land. The apples are looking good, and all my little trees are growing happily.
12th July 2019
Got the box of advance copies of SECRETS IN THE COTSWOLDS yesterday. Anyone who finds Thea less than a perfect wife and mother will have their views confirmed in this one. Have delivered the final (I hope) revision of THE PATTERDALE PLOT which should be out next spring. So it's all ongoing, as usual.
Meanwhile I have a wealth of notes gleaned from my recent trip to Montana. I'm picking up the story of Fanny Collins, who features in THE INDIFFERENCE OF TUMBLEWEED and THE SPOILS OF SIN. She ifsnow in her thirties and the Civil War is just coming to an end. She has found a new way of earning her living, which does not involve the 'servicing' of men. In Montana there is gold, new towns springing up, the mighty Missorui river and quite a lot of Native Americans.
The acres are sheer wilderness, with an explosion of butterflies enjoying the long grass and many meadow flowers. Scents of honeysuckle, meadowsweet, clover and others. Great mounds of purple vetch replacing last year's thistles. Amazing how every year there's a new dominant plant.
Anyone wishing to buy the ebook of my SABINE BARING-GOULD:THE MAN WHO TOLD A THOUSAND STORIES should persevere in searching for it on Amazon. The top of the list to come up says 'currently unavailable' which refers to the cancelled Sharpe Books version. Keep on scrolling! The book is a great bargain and well worth reading, I promise.
20th August 2019
SECRETS IN THE COTSWOLDS is out this week, and I am just about to finish tweaking THE PATTERDALE PLOT. Next project on the stocks is A COTSWOLDS CHRISTMAS MYSTERY where Thea and family have guests, there are some sudden domestic dramas, as well as Something Nasty happening close by. The whole thing is seen through the eyes of Drew's daughter Stephanie, now aged 11. The plan is for it to be available for Christmas 2020.
My Oregon Trail novels are attracting new readers, and after my recent lovely trip to Montana, I've embarked on Book 3 - THE FRAUDULENCE OF FREEDOM.
And I am still revelling in my grandmother's splendid letters from the 1950s. Several drawersful yet to go.
The whole family decamped to North Yorkshire earlier this month, staying in Hawes where they make Wensleydale cheese. I went to the cheesery (as we called it) four times! The shop is a wonder, all by itself. Hawes also has Hardraw Force - England's highest single-fall waterfall. After a lot of rain it was absolutely spectacular. Add in sweet little Sedbergh, historic Dent (with vampire), gorgeous Ripon and its cathedral, stone walls and a million sheep and it all made for a superb holiday. Sadly, though, my cat died while I was away. I thought she'd last several more years yet. Now I only have Bunty, the little mongrel dog.
Have booked a week in New York before Christmas. Have lost count of the times I've been there, but it never grows stale.
25th September 2019
Just back from a few days in Trieste, which had climbed to the top of my must-see list. A place rich with history, and packed with gorgeous buildings, most of them monumentally big. It sits between the sea and a steep mountain escarpment, creating wonderful views from all angles. But it was also very frustrating. Efforts to find specific museums were frequently thwarted. There are no helpful signs, and Mr Google Map was clearly having an off day when he did the Trieste page. We were marched up a very steep hill for no reason at all, when we went in search of the castle. Incredibly, we never found it!
I should not have indulged in a trip at all, as it turned out. Allison & Busby are reissuing my first seven titles in a new format, and they all need to be proofread. Despite having been checked innumerable times, there are still a few typos and inconsistencies. More than that, I welcome the chance to read them all again in detail. I was afraid they would seem inferior to later work, but the fact is, I'm finding them quite startlingly good - which sounds immodest I know. There is a freshness to them, and clever plotting and pretty great characterisation. So I am hoping they will reach a whole new audience, as they deserve to. The first is A DIRTY DEATH, first published 20 years ago now.
Meanwhile I also have to write the next Thea story. A COTSWOLD CHRISTMAS MYSTERY, which is told through the eyes of young Stephanie Slocombe, Drew's daughter.
The Montana book is going to have to wait a while before I can get back to it. The homestead is yielding good crops of apples, blackberries and sloes. The young trees are all flourishing, and I think my resident hedgehog family are okay, although I don't see them every evening. I've got quite a few public appearances in the diary, too. See the 'Appearances' page of the website.