As this is my last blog of 2016, I thought I would set aside the serious stuff about writing and say a little about this last year. This will be short, because the latest addition to the Swinfen family, a golden cocker spaniel puppy, eight-week-old Suki, is taking up quite a lot of time at the moment. Here she is, arriving after a two-hour car journey from the west of Scotland, during which she behaved impeccably:
She had said farewell to her mother:
her litter mates:
and her breeder:
It must be very confusing and frightening at first, for a small puppy separated from everything she knows. She had never even been outside, except to visit the vet for her baby vaccinations.
She arrived home with us on Thursday, visited our vet for registration and a check-up on Friday, and has already (it’s Sunday) almost learned the first purpose of a garden for a dog. To be very nearly house trained at eight weeks is pretty remarkable. I think she’s going to prove to be a very bright dog! We lost our lovely Sasha early in 2015, so there’s been a big gap in the family. Here are some pictures of Suki’s first days:
Mind you, our rescue cat, Maxi, is still deeply suspicious:
It was just as well that we couldn’t collect Suki until 29 December, or I might not have finished the latest Christoval Alvarez book before Christmas. Young puppies need a lot of attention and it isn’t easy to work on a keyboard with a puppy on your lap. Squirming. And taking the occasional nibble at the wires.
Nevertheless, it has been a productive writing year. Four new novels.
In addition to the written word, I’ve been working with the actor Jan Cramer on the unabridged audiobooks of the first three Christoval Alvarez books:
My role is far from passive, as we discuss all the details, then Jan records the audio equivalent of a first draft, I listen to the whole thing (around 10 hours), edit it, she records the corrections, then I listen to and approve the final version, before it goes to ACX and then Audible for distribution. We plan to carry on with the rest of the series in 2017.
I am now also in negotiation with a well-known actor for the recording of the unabridged audiobooks of the Oxford Medieval Mystery series. He’s been reading the first two over Christmas, and we will finalise arrangements in January. I hope it works out, as he has a lovely voice. He’s primarily a stage actor, but has also worked in film and TV. You’re most likely to have seen him in Downton Abbey. Only one episode, and a small part, but his career CV is very impressive!
As for my writing, I’m currently hoping to publish the next Oxford Medieval Mystery, The Huntsman’s Tale, in March. I haven’t planned in detail beyond that. I’ve written four new books in each of 2015 and 2016, which is pretty exhausting!
This year has also involved a lot of trekking up and down between Scotland and England. Each trip is about 7 to 9 hours each way, so it’s consumed quite a lot of time. Trips to Herefordshire in April/May and September/October, each time staying about three weeks and involving side trips to relatives and friends as far afield as Cardiff.
Then there was a Gaudy at my old college in Oxford, Somerville, in June. We managed to stay in Somerville, which now has some rather splendid guest rooms, and we extended our visit at both ends to take in visits to friends. As David had a dinner at his old college, Hertford, at the same time, it worked out very conveniently. Hertford is the one with the bridge:
This winter view of Somerville was part of an invitation to a carol concert. I’ve adapted it as the wallpaper on my laptop. Very nostalgic, as it’s more or less the view from one of the windows in the room I lived in for three years:
Then in early September we both attended the Historic Novel Society Conference in Oxford. It was held in the new Mathematics Institute, which has been built on the site of the Radcliffe Infirmary, right next door to Somerville, where we stayed again. The view from our window was across the cleared site, with a wonderful view of the eighteenth-century Observatory – such a beautiful building. (The Mathematical Institute is out of sight on the right.) Once more buildings have encroached on this precious site, near central Oxford, the Observatory will be hidden from Somerville, sadly.
The last of our long journeys was down to Derbyshire for a huge family get-together at the end of November. Absent members made contact by Skype. Mercifully, the car took all this travelling in its stride, except for the first journey to Oxford, when we had a mysterious loss of power about halfway. Luckily a Volvo garage in Witney was able to fix the problem on the spot.
What with one thing and another, my Christmas preparations were rather scanty. We managed a tree:
And I had made two new Christmas stockings. The stripes on the green one aren’t crooked, it’s just the way the colour patterning on the yarn came out:
For the (big) girls in the family, I made these scarves, using a rather intriguing pattern. I’d made one for myself about three years ago, and I wear it and wear it:
So that’s a quick overview of 2016. Now the puppy needs a feed and a visit to the garden, so I’ll sign off.
May you all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year in 2017!
Till next time,