pre-Revolutionary paintings

I have yet to be able to think of a good title for this post. It comes of looking at too many paintings set in the decade before the French revolution, while trying to get an idea of clothing, costumes, hair and wigs, and so on and so forth. (Upcoming trilogy set during the French Revolution and involving vampires and the Scarlet Pimpernel, first book SCARLET, you know the drill.)

The figures stare out with faint smiles or thoughtful expressions – genuine? Or added by the artist because that was what was wanted and the subject was paying the fee? – well, we can’t tell now. Their gloved hands or white fingers are so very fragile. The silks or muslins of their clothing are rich, expensive, fashionable, beautiful. Were the paintings intended as gifts for lovers, or heirlooms for families, or simply the joy of the artist? Did that pretty Fragonard painting of a young girl on a swing, kicking off her slipper in a flurry of petticoats so that her reclining lover (one assumes) could catch it, mean anything? Or was it . . . just art? (Okay, that one’s 1767, so a little earlier, but . . .)

Very shortly it won’t matter. The paintings may remain, but the subjects will be exiled or executed. The whole of the ancien regime is about to come crashing down like an expensive vase. (Or would it be more appropriate to compare it to one of those “one of a kind” commemoration pieces of china which look so gilded at the time, but so tacky afterwards?) Marie Antoinette’s belongings will be sold off at public auction. The Law of Suspects will make suspicion sufficient for execution. The King himself will go to the guillotine. Notre-Dame will have its ancient statues beheaded. But the pictures will remain, like fractions of light caught in a stained glass window and somehow preserved there. Faces which don’t see the future coming.

I think the feeling which has grown on me, painting after painting, is that nobody sees the future coming. We talk about Revolutions and Collapses of Empire and so on as though the paths leading there were obvious at the time, and the pictures which come down to us should display some sort of foreshadowing.. It’s easy for an author to write in foreshadowing when she knows what the end of the story is; she can go back and add it to make the whole thing a complete work of art. But at the Point Before, we don’t know. Artists don’t know. Writers don’t know.

The influencer stares into the camera and smiles. The media focuses on the latest show business divorce trial. We don’t know, we can’t know – or at least, we can’t be certain – what the future may bring, even if after the fact people may say that “the oncoming X was obvious”. They may even be right. But all those paintings stare back at me in their expensive clothing and their fashionable hairstyles, and they know nothing of the oncoming Revolution and the guillotine.

Cobourg Library interview

I was interviewed (virtually) recently by Cobourg Public Library, and the interview is now available on Youtube. Many thanks to Cobourg Public Library, and to Laura MacCourt who did the interviewing.

All quiet otherwise – waiting for edits on SCARLET, working on the next book, getting on with things.

And still wearing a mask when I’m indoors in shops or similar, because the COVID figures don’t look good. Please be sensible, and stay safe.

US audio update

Just a quick note to say that I’ve chased this up, and The Untold Story audiobook should be showing in the US in a few days. Apologies to anyone who’s been waiting.

I’m back at my job, work is busy, life is churning away, and my Government is displaying the depths of their idiocy and endangering the country by planning to drop all the COVID precautions far too soon. Par for the course. If I wasn’t already writing about guillotines, the current Cabinet and Prime Minister would make me want to anyhow.

Ah well. Wear your mask and take precautions. Much as I would like the pandemic to be over and done with, I don’t think it is yet.

home for the holidays

This year, touch wood, I am spending Christmas with my parents. Off down south tomorrow (Tuesday) and back after the new year.

Take care and stay safe, everyone. And if you’re in America – watch for THE UNTOLD STORY when it comes out . . .

The Untold Story – released!

Today is the UK release of The Untold Story.

(Don’t think of it as necessarily the end of the series; just think of it as the end of the current season. There may be more, later – but I have to finish the new trilogy first . . .)

I can only say that I hope you enjoy it.

And cheer up, US readers – it’ll be out for you too very soon.

quick note on Untold Story giveaway

I’ve sent copies of The Untold Story to the winners whom I could contact and who gave me their addresses: Alex Roberts, Katherine McCormack, Petra Kalhotková and Kathryn Kynaston.

I’m unable to send copies yet to Barbara and Kevin (both of whom put their names down on the Goodreads sync of my blog), as I don’t have their contact details. So if you’re reading this, Barbara and Kevin, please ping me on Goodreads.

Otherwise . . . well, I hope you’re all doing better in your Christmas planning and present-organising than I am. (mutters, stares at list, mutters some more)

The Untold Story sweepstake winners

Many thanks to everyone who sent in their names, for your enthusiasm and for your generous comments about how much you liked the series.

Some of the winners are from the Goodreads sync of this blog, and some left their comments on this blog directly. I ended up pulling out 6 names rather than 5 – well, it is Christmas.

The winners are:

Alex Roberts
Katherine McCormack
Petra Kalhotková
Kathryn Kynaston

On Goodreads:

I’ve sent emails to the winners from I’ve left comments for the winners on Goodreads – please message me there with your postal address so that I can send your copy.

With a bit of luck, and with God and the post willing, everyone might even get their copies before Christmas . . .

Untold Story giveaway!

Time for a December giveaway! Leave your name in a comment to this post, and I’ll pull five names at random to get a free signed copy of The Untold Story – or, if people prefer, another book from the series (if I have a copy).


a) All entries must be in by midnight UK time on Friday 3rd December 2021.

b) In your comment, state whether you’d like The Untold Story (I only have UK version copies, sorry) or a different book from the series – and if you’re after one that’s been published in a different language, please say which. I have some author copies…

c) After the deadline, I’ll draw the names at random, then I’ll contact people to get their physical addresses (no, I don’t have any e-copies to send out) and find out what name they’d like the book signed for.

d) Take care, stay safe, observe all COVID precautions, and have a good December.

the hours draw on apace

Less than a month to go till the UK release of THE UNTOLD STORY (the 9th December, for reference) and I’m trying to maintain a proper and dignified attitude rather than the more normal cower-under-the-desk version.

In the meantime, I attended the Thought Bubble convention in Harrogate yesterday, I’m planning to attend the Knitting and Stitching Show there this coming weekend, and I’m working on SCARLET in the background. Plus the day job. My life is a mad whirl of social frivolity. Other than that, I am a bear of very little brain – probably because of all the aforesaid.

But soon, soon . . .

Magical Library Sweepstakes – win The Untold Story!

Feeling lucky? Penguin Random House has put up a sweepstake to win copies of THE UNTOLD STORY, and also THE GOD OF LOST WORDS from A.J. Hackwith. I’m afraid it’s US residents only, but entry’s between October 4th – 17th, so if you’re interested, check it out at:

Things are okay here otherwise; the weather’s turned cold, but then again it is October, and I’m getting on with writing SCARLET. I was fascinated to discover that a term which was actually used during the French revolution was “sanguinocrates” (“aristocrats of blood”) – admittedly used in referring to the Jacobins who acquiesced in the September 1792 massacres, but I’m not going to turn down a good word like that when it’s dropped in my lap.

Take care and stay safe, all.