Talking about Sir Robert Carey and Shakespeare

I have finally got it together to find and download the recording I made on the 30th November 2017 at Waterstones Truro, talking about Sir Robert Carey and Elizabethans generally.


I was also lucky enough to have totally authentic musical accompaniment from Ben Salfield and his lutar, including Lady Hunsdon’s Puff which is one of my favourites.

Find Ben on and also at the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Talking about Sir Robert Carey

My book GUNS IN THE NORTH is out now – a triple helping of Sir Robert Carey, with the first three books of the series in a handsome omnibus edition (Head of Zeus).

That’s A FAMINE OF HORSES (Sir Robert Carey arrives at Carlisle and wonders why there are so few horses available.)

A SEASON OF KNIVES (Sir Robert’s servant Barnabus is accused of murder)

A SURFEIT OF GUNS (Sir Robert travels to Dumfries to meet King James VI of Scotland where he gets into a lot of trouble)

So I’m going to be at Waterstones Kew, London UK, on Wednesday 26th July at 6.30 pm talking about it. I’m hoping the trains to Carlisle will be running the next day (27th July), because I’ll be at Waterstones Carlisle, UK, at 6.30 pm, talking about Sir Robert Carey’s adventures and the awfulness of the Border reivers.

Now I really enjoy doing these events – and I’ve been doing them since I was 18 which is (mumble mumble) years ago. A long time anyway. And if you’re called Armstrong, Graham or Fenwick or any other Border name, I’ve got some interesting news about your 16th century ancestors.

However this blog is really all about me having proudly made a little video about my events this week and trying to work out how to put it in my blog. It seems to take ages to  upload videos so I’ll try a Youtube link.

Good god, it seems to have worked. Amazing!

I’ll see you at Waterstones.

Diana Gabaldon’s lovely review of A CLASH OF SPHERES

To say I’m happy about this review from Diana Gabaldon is like saying that “War and Peace” is about fighting or that a blue whale is quite big. I’m beaming. Thank you so much, Diana! (this comes from my US publishers’ website at Poisoned Pen Press.)

The following essay is by New York Times best-selling author of the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon.

This is one of the most entertaining, elegant and deeply emotional books I’ve read in years. (I’m tempted just to write “EEEEEEEEE!” to sum up my response to it, but that seems inadequate, if heartfelt.)

I’ve loved the Robert Carey series since the first book (A Famine of Horses), and every one thereafter has had all the elements that made the first so engaging: a fascinating look at little-known parts of Elizabethan history, wonderfully immersive details, hilarious dialogue, adventurous situations, and—above all—characters drawn with a deftness that catches the essence of a soul in a few words.

Sir Robert is the center of it all, of course, but the story certainly doesn’t stop with him. He’s surrounded by a constantly evolving (and revolving) constellation of courtiers, reivers, Borderers (often synonymous with reivers), Sergeant Dodd (his surly, dour, stubborn, honorable sidekick), scholars, assassins, spies, royalty, and (to be sure) women. One woman in particular; the unattainable Elizabeth Widdrington, unhappily married to a cruel older husband and much too honorable to take Robert Carey as her lover, much as she wants to.

This one’s not an ordinary historical novel

All of this would be more than enough for your ordinary historical novel…but this one’s not an ordinary historical novel: it’s an orrery—you’ve doubtless seen one, even if you didn’t know what it’s called—it’s a mechanical model of the solar system. And those you’ve seen have undoubtedly been designed to fit the Copernican theory of astronomy: to wit, with the sun in the center and the various planets orbiting it at varying distances. But it was not always thus…

Back in Sir Robert’s day—i.e., the late sixteenth century—there were competing views of the stars and their movements, and scholars who espoused the Ptolemaic system, in which the planets and the Sun all (naturally) circled the Earth, were more popular than the upstart (and obviously deluded) Copernicans. Only in a P.F. Chisholm novel will you have a delayed-fuse plot that centers (you should pardon the expression) on a formal scientific disputation regarding the position of the Sun in the solar system, held at the Royal Court of Scotland, between the King and an itinerant Jewish healer.

Not that there aren’t plenty of other plots orbiting that one: religious persecution, murder in several shades, rejected lovers of all stripes and persuasions, and the head-butting politics of the constantly feuding Border surnames.

Passing without touching

The novel is an orrery, though; the underlying structure of the book reflects all the intricacies with which people orbit each other, mostly passing without touching, turning a light face or a dark as they travel through their personal space, their orbits influenced by love, jealousy, ambition, greed, insecurity, fear, revenge, longing, frustration, friendship and its loss—and the soul-wrenching effects of being responsible for other people.

And at the center of it all is a tenderly human compassion that sheds its light through this system of moving bodies, for everyone from the King of Scotland to Sergeant Dodd’s horse.

I finished reading the book, and immediately read it again. Been a long time since that’s happened.

Diana Gabaldon (2017)

To learn more, read an excerpt, or to purchase, visit: A Clash of Spheres.

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Proofs, proofs, proofs

Back in the Dark Ages, before word processing programs and emails, you sent your vast wad of paper off to the publishers and if it didn’t get lost in the post, they would send back a list of edits. And then you’d do the edits and eventually you would get a much vaster wad of paper, A3 size, called page-proofs which had in fact been printed off the physical typesetting. The first thing you would see when you looked at them was always an embarrassing mistake which you corrected immediately with a terrific sense of relief.
You would have two weeks to do all your corrections in, usually coinciding with the Easter holidays or, I think on one occasion, moving house and you had to use special very precise typesetters’ marks which I still use because… well, because I can.
Despite what the publishers told you about only correcting mistakes, you would take the opportunity to make as many corrections as you could. Mostly they let you unless it got outrageous at which point they would charge you for them.
Some time later you would get your bound proofs, which looked terribly smart because they actually looked like a book. You could still make corrections so long as they were small, and sure enough, the first thing you would see when you opened your very own book was always an embarrassing (and different) mistake you hadn’t spotted at the page-proof stage.
You’d get pulls of the cover which I have to say, I always found a terrific let-down in those far off days. Cover design has got several orders of magnitude better than it was when my first book A SHADOW OF GULLS came out.
Then you’d get your first copy of the actual bound hardback book. And it was always a thrill and a joy because there were the words you’d written, made actually official by print. You’d hug it and show it to your mum and dance around the sitting room.
Then, of course, you’d spot the hideously obvious and crashingly embarrassing mistake in the first few pages which you hadn’t spotted before and was now uncorrectable.
This happens with all books no matter how careful you are and I’m now hardened to it, but it still makes me wince.
I’m going through my nice bound proofs of A CHORUS OF INNOCENTS at the moment, going backwards and reading it aloud in the effort to find every single typo and mistake and I know I’ll miss something.
But I still love getting my bound proofs!

A bit behind with things…

Really, this blog is about excuses. First I am being plagued by a gremlin: I lost my beloved battered Hungarian/English dictionary on the bus on Saturday morning, just left it on the seat and waltzed off and didn’t remember it until too late. Then the power cable for my laptop went missing: I still have a couple of places to look but I’m mystified as to where it went because I’m usually hypercareful about things like that.

And then on Saturday afternoon a glass of water was spilled All. Over. The. Keyboard. Of. My. Laptop.

It was an accident and at least partly my fault for allowing any container of any liquid to be on the same surface as the laptop because you know, and I know, and the Computer Gods know that eventually liquid and laptop will meet.

So we tipped it on its side and switched it off and patted it with paper towels and dried it with a hairdryer and I didn’t start it up again until I could get it to the Computer Guys on Monday morning. It seems OK. The laptop needed to see the Computer Guys anyway.

Plus I’m being plagued by a nasty cold and chest infection that seems to be clearing up but veeerrrryyy slooooowly. I spent the whole of Sunday in bed with a pile of snotty tissues and a brilliant book by Alice Hogge called “God’s Secret Agents” and dozing off in the hope my chest would have stopped making strange creaking noises when I woke up.

So this is it, I’m afraid. I had sort of plans to publish a taster of my peculiar SF story featuring a futuristic Robin Carey and Henry Dodd, but I haven’t got round to anything like that. Maybe next week.

Hooray! Hooray! “An Air of Treason” by P F Chisholm is out now!

I could do sock-puppetting and tell you that P F Chisholm is a wonderful writer and you should all go and buy this book… If you’re American or want Kindle – buy it here. If you’re British, buy it here.


But I won’t.


I’ll just bashfully tell you about the sixth in my series of Elizabethan crime novels under the pen-name P F Chisholm. “An Air of Treason”, starring that dour Borderer, Sergeant Henry Dodd and the dashing courtier and man-of-action Sir Robert Carey. Published by Poisoned Pen Press, is OUT NOW in treebook and ebook.


What’s in it? Well, Dodd’s in big trouble on the way from London to Oxford and Carey’s tracked down the Queen at last – but she’s ordered him to investigate the most dangerous cold-case of the Elizabethan era. Meanwhile someone wants to poison him.


Once you’ve bought it and read it – please write a review on Amazon (especially if you liked it). And if you can get at least two of your friends to buy the book too, you’ll ultimately make me a very happy author.


And then you can read the five earlier books: “A Famine of Horses”, “A Season of Knives”, “A Surfeit of Guns”, “A Plague of Angels”, “A Murder of Crows.” – you can find them here.


And then you can read my Elizabethan noir ebook about the ambiguous lawyer James Enys in “Do We Not Bleed” – published on Kindle by Climbing Tree Books Ltd – plus a number of other books by me.


Including a contemporary love-story set in Cornwall in the 1990s which I’d forgotten about until the Publisher insisted on putting it out there. It’s called “Love without Shadows” – it’s not historical but try it anyway. You might like it!


There are five more historical novels in my backlist which Climbing Tree Books will be bringing out in ebook formats over the next year or so.


And then there are the very silly stories about Jack the Dog – “I, Jack” and “Jack and Rebel the Police Dog” – all written in Doglish. For those you’ll have to pester HarperCollins, but a new ebook in the series “Jack and the Ghosts” is also available from Climbing Tree Books.


And then you can find my Facebook Author Page and Patricia Finney’s Renaissance Facebook Group (someone will ask you about my books to stop spammers).


Once you’ve done all that, I might have finished the next Enys story – possibly even the next Carey. Climbing Tree Books might have even more weird and wonderful things to read by me and others.



Would anyone like a \”Sir Robert Carey trail\”?

I\’ve been in Northumberland researching my next Carey novels. The latest one \”An Air of Treason\” is coming out in the spring of 2014, published by Poisoned Pen Press and this trip is for the ones after that. Carey and Dodd are finally on their way north at the end of \”An Air of Treason\” and the next three books will take place on the Borders again.


I checked out the (fictional) Sergeant Dodd\’s stamping ground of Gilsland where I also walked along Hadrian\’s wall for a bit. I\’ve been staying at Haltwhistle which claims to be the Centre of Britain – which is also the name of a hotel that\’s in an old pele tower (spelling is correct, though you can also spell it \”peel\” as that\’s how it\’s pronounced). These were the simple defensive towers surnames built to take refuge in when another surname came and attacked them. I had a very hearty dinner at the Black Bull pub – black pudding stack with stilton and haggis (yum!) and pork belly with black pudding. Yes, I have a thing for black pudding.


I\’m now in Berwick-upon-Tweed which might have been where Sir Robert Carey was born and was almost certainly where he spent a lot of his childhood. I walked all round the very impressive ramparts and through the town which is mainly 18th century. The ramparts are 16th century and were built under the supervision of Carey\’s father, Lord Hunsdon. And I had a wonderful Sunday lunch at a restaurant called Audela – parsley soup with black pudding and poached egg (yum!), cheese soufflé with apple and walnut salad (yum!) and poached pear in wine with ice cream (yummity yum yum!) The cakes looked pretty good as well but I Was Strong.


So. Would anyone like me to list places they could visit that feature in Carey\’s life story?

That Man in Red Again

I logged on for a very erudite discussion at the beginning of this week on Google+ – Art Talks: Who is the Man in Red? It was great because I could soak up all sorts of detail about Henry VIII\’s court and clothes and jewels and painting. The curators of the In Fine Style exhibition quoted my suggestion at the end – as I may have mentioned, I think I\’ve got the Man in Red nailed.


I think it was Carey\’s father as a young man – Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon and I\’ll keep saying so until somebody finds the account entry or the connection that proves it – or (OK, it\’s possible) definite evidence that it isn\’t him.


Henry Carey was the first son and second child of Mary Boleyn (The Other Boleyn Girl) who had been married to Sir William Carey after her affair with Henry VIII finished. He was born on the 4th March 1526. Historians are sceptical about him being an illegitimate son of the King but it\’s certainly possible that he was.
Although the accounts show that Henry Fitzroy, Henry\’s acknowledged illegitimate son, had a red gown, doublet and hose, the Man in Red is clearly not him because from his miniature, Henry Fitzroy had very little chin whereas the Man in Red has quite a long chin. Also Henry Fitzroy died in 1536 which is a little early for the portrait and style of the clothes. If you look at the portrait of Baron Hunsdon by Steven van Herwijck, painted 1561-63
I think you\’ll see that there\’s a considerable resemblance there, especially (yes) about the chin. Henry Carey too had blue eyes.
I believe it\’s possible that the portrait of a Man in Red was painted in 1545, perhaps for the occasion of Henry Carey\’s marriage to Anne Morgan on 21st May 1545 and he may even have been wearing Fitzroy\’s old outfit refashioned, seeing how expensive it was. The clothing is very much of that later Henrician style (as several experts agree). This would have been 2 years before Henry VIII\’s death and so must have been with the King\’s permission – perhaps as a way of tidying up the succession around Edward VI.
How to prove it? Well the ideal would be an entry in a the domus providenciae accounts for a portrait of Henry Carey wearing red or perhaps in his own household accounts (I\’m not sure if he was in the King\’s household or his mother\’s). Maybe the cap badge could help? It\’s a very distinctive one of a man in armour next to a large Tudor rose (significant because Hunsdon\’s coat of arms bore three silver roses on a bend). Has anybody seen that anywhere? Hunsdon and Elizabeth always got along very well and he later became the Captain of her Guard and later still her Lord Chamberlain. Did the cap badge display his devotion to the Tudor Rose – Elizabeth?

The Man in Red – and Nerdy Joy

I\’m a little over-excited at the moment – I\’ve just blogged about it on my publishing company page – find it here at Climbing Tree Books.
There\’s a wonderful exhibition on called In Fine Style which I naturally went to see. They pose a bit of a mystery: who was the Man in Red, a young man wearing very expensive red clothes from Henry VIII\’s reign?
I took one look and thought – I know who that is!
It\’s Carey\’s Dad!
Follow a discussion about it on Google+ on July 22nd at 2.00 pm UK time.

Writing a book is brain-consuming!

Yes, this is all about excuses. Here we go. I know I haven\’t been posting many blogs recently. Yes, I know I should keep writing and posting if I want people to read it.


Thing is, I\’ve been writing a book – the sixth in my series of Elizabethan crime novels about the wonderfully dashing Sir Robert Carey and his hard-as-nails sidekick Sergeant Henry Dodd. I\’ve finally found a good title – \”An Air of Treason.\” You\’ll be able to read it soon – not sure when but it\’ll come out as an ebook and a treebook, published by the wonderful crime specialists, Poisoned Pen Press.


The stage I\’m at is the rewrite. I love rewriting – I find it relaxing and fun. You keep going through the story you\’ve written, laughing at the funny bits, getting excited at the scary bits, smoothing it out, making it clearer and adding the things that have turned up in your unconscious since you finished.


And it\’s really time-consuming and it fills up your head as you decide which bits need to go and which bits need to expand. It\’s not quite as bad as the crazy 0th draft stage (see my how-to-write-a-novel ebook \”Writeritis – the novel-writing bug\” for more details). But it means that nothing else gets written.


I\’m not sure what the solution is so I\’ve bought myself a scanner so I can do pictures (warning, technophobia alert). Yes, that\’s right. Spend money on technology I don\’t know how to use instead of getting on with what I really can do.


I\’m now determined to post once a week at least. Maybe I\’ll do some about my terrifying New Year\’s resolution to get rid of some more of my books on Amazon and eBay. Yes, I know lots of people do it all the time and think it\’s fun and easy but… Somehow I can always find the most complicated way of getting it completely wrong. Just the thought of it paralyses me.


I even promised to post sections of my next ebook \”3Steps to a Great Eating Habit\” and never got round to it because I was so busy writing it.


I dunno. Can I have some staff, please?