Monday, April 29, 2013

Coming soon - Heroes and Villains

Bank Holiday Blog hop

Advance warning! Here are some Blogs to visit where you'll find interesting articles and giveaways over the May bank holiday. I'll have an article and a book giveaway competition for you here on Friday.

    Heroes and Villains blog hop participants

     Please visit - there are goodies available on all links! 

      1 Nyki Blatchley
      2 Martin Bolton
      3 Debra Brown
      4 Adrian Chamberlin
      5 Mike Cooley
      6 Karin Cox
      7 Joanna Fay
      8 Peter B Forster
      9 Ron Fritsch
      10 Mai Griffin
      11 Joanne Hall
      12 Jolea M Harrison
      13 Tinney Sue Heath
      14 Eleni Konstanine
      15 K. Scott Lewis
      16 Paula Lofting
      17 Liz Long
      18 Peter Lukes
      19 Mark McClelland
      20 M. Edward McNally
      21 Sue Millard
      22 Rhiannon Douglas
      23 Ginger Myrick
      24 David Pilling
      25 E M Powell
      26 Kim Rendfeld
      27 Terry L Smith
      28 Tara West
      29 Keith Yatsuhashi
      29 Adrian Chamberlin

      Sue's Victorian Historical Novel can be discovered here - COACHMAN -

      "K M Peyton meets Malcolm MacDonald."

      Good-looking and ambitious George Davenport travels to London with his bride Lucy, determined to make the most of his skill in driving a four-in-hand of horses. It’s 1838. Queen Victoria is crowned, and England is at peace, but it isn't a good time to be a coachman.

      As George finds employment with William Chaplin, the “Napoleon of coaching”, the first railways are about to open across the country. Their competition will kill off the road-coaching trade. George loves both his work and his wife, so he has a lot to come to terms with… even before the boss’s daughter starts to stalk him.

      Wednesday, April 24, 2013

      Fundamental differences

      Some of my friends on social media follow the daily musings of a fundamentalist Creationist preacher in western America. How do I know this? Their responses to him pop up on my Facebook timeline. Every now and again I go to read what's being argued about.

      Opening statements

      The preacher usually makes one sweeping remark: "The words of Jesus have made the common sparrow a daily reminder that we are never forgotten by God." A particularly bland example, this; the others that week concerned the Boston marathon bombers who "think that God doesn’t see their crimes", an ad for the preacher's book "67% off", "Genesis Chapter 1 one solves the mystery of human origins" and "Psalms 6,8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21 Written for atheists: 10:4 tells why they don’t seek God and 14:1 speaks to their intellectual capacity." The latter two in particular are recurring themes - Creationism and the baiting or "pursuing" of atheists: "Christians are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of the Godless."

      He then bows out.

      The replies from the twitterati range from "I hate sparrows" to "You should see the seagulls round our way, mugging people for chips!" and "Sparrows seem to be all over the planet. I have seen them in several countries. God is good!" While the comment, "The waves of Neptune have made the common clam a daily reminder that we are never forgotten by Neptune" brings the riposte, "Blasphemer! His name is Poseidon!"

      All of which is harmless fun for a Monday morning. Even the occasional "AMEN!" in shouty ALL CAPS is only mildly annoying.

      Critical thought

      But critical questions and counter-statements then occur, like "Why do Christians need a daily reminder that they are not forgotten by God?" or "we are evolved beings, part of a massive complex and beautiful ecosystem, not the by-product of an angry, malevolent and egotistical god." These provoke outbursts from the preacher's followers that bear no relation at all to the original post. (See my paragraph about the preacher's recurrent themes; the answers are all over the page, in any case.)

      I sometimes copy a particularly vitriolic set of exchanges and save it. They're usually too multi-threaded and rambling to be re-posted in their entirety, but as a writer I can see they'll be useful in a story at some time! The arguments go round and round cyclically in almost every post and its responses, so it's possible to reconstruct the flavour of the discussion by putting representative examples together.

      Some examples

      "Dear atheists. You are not going to change the Christian mind. Give up."

      "You don't even know what atheism means."

      "Atheists are blind and lost. They need the Bible and the Almighty Savior."

      "Hey Einstein. The bible isn't necessary to tell why atheists don't seek god is it? We know why. We don't believe he exists do we?"

      "Thank you Lord for defeating sin and death at the cross. Grant mercy to many who oppose You here today."

      "The words of the preacher are a daily reminder that religious people will always find a way of seeing whatever they want to see."

      "As far as I am concerned we CHRISTIANS are here doing what NO OTHER god or religion will do for you. Try to open your eyes to what is to come."

      "I guess you've never encountered a JW, Mormon, or Muslim?"

      "Ha, ha. We don’t need to prove it. We are fully convinced and we DO NOT NEED TO prove this to you."  (More shouty ALL CAPS.)

      "Just because you're personally convinced, that doesn't mean it's true."

      "Why is it so hard to believe that God created everything good and then when sin entered the world things changed?"

      "As I understand Creationist belief, god created everything. If nothing existed before god made it, where did evil come from in order to 'enter the world'? If he created everything, then as well as the finches and sparrows and amoebae and microbes and whales and cedars and horses and mountains he also created evil, pain and suffering. Either god created everything, in which case he's got a nasty side, or else he didn't, so evil may not be his fault but that in turn makes him NOT omipotent. Or, and this is the view that makes most sense, we as humans have projected qualities from ourselves onto our idea of 'a god' to explain the vast range of events we observe in the world/universe."


      Because of this preacher's obsession with Creationism, he has a personal beef with Darwin (not with anyone else, as far as I can gather; not with Alfred Russel Wallace nor David Attenborough nor anyone in between. Oh, unless you count Richard Dawkins).

      A word that both sides use of the other's literature is "fantasy." The Creationists frequently use it of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, the atheists, of the Bible.

      "I read every page of Origin of Species. I'm sure you will agree that it's the driest, most boring book ever written...about a fantasy that has no scientific basis."

      "Religion says: Before you read this book you have to believe it's all true.

      "Science says: Before you read this book - be ready to question everything you read so that you understand it."

      Personally, I refuse to worship a figment of somebody else's imagination. That inevitably puts me on the scientific side of this argument.

      I didn't know I was an atheist until quite recently; but this preacher and his ignorance and his generally ignorant followers have convinced me that I really don't want to go to any heaven they may have imagined. So by definition I must be an atheist. Okay, I can live with that.

      Have a nice day.

      Here's a picture to consider while you're doing that.

      Tuesday, April 23, 2013

      Happy Birthday, Mr Shakespeare

      A while back, I won a competition to write a poem "from" a famous writer in thanks for an unexpected Christmas present. Given the date, I thought I'd recycle it.


      Mr Shakespeare’s thanks for a Satellite Navigation System

      My thanks to you for this most magic choice.
      You say that knowledge, docile in my hand,
      Will speak, will guide me with a human voice
      To smooth my journey through this foreign land?

      Must I attend to her, the Ariel
      Confined within this box by Prospero?
      Her honeyed phrases softly fall to tell
      Me, the tired traveller, of the miles to go.

      Although my feet comply, my heart rebels
      For in my mind no woman holds such sway;
      I should be seeking out her velvet dells
      And sweetly talking her to walk my way,

      Until, impatient of all public spaces,
      She navigates me to her private places.


      Friday, April 19, 2013

      Contemporary Novelists' 4 day Book Fair

      "This is a Book Fair for authors and readers who love contemporary romances, chick-lit, romantic suspense novels, family sagas or lovely tales of village/town life with a touch of romance."

      Sue Millard Fails to Interview Nora Forthright

      Now then, writer person. It's a middlin' sort of day. Are ye well?

      Ah'm a bit flustered-like, thinkin' ye might expect me t'be wearin' spike heels like them in't photograph. Well, ye'll never catch a sheep in a dippin' pen if yer teeterin' about on stilts like them. Ruin yer feet too. Be warned, Ah'm built for comfort an' so are me shoes.

      Well, Ah dun't know whether yon book of thine would count as "lovely village life" but Ah've got family all reet and since ye've writ about 'em people can read about 'em if ye like. Now Ah've got taties to scrub, so if ye'll excuse me....

      Nothing ever happens in an English country town ... does it? Nora Forthright and her grandson Wayne stumble through the fictional Cumbrian towns of Dangleby and Pullet St Mary, putting things right entirely by accident.
      GENRE: Comedy / cosy crime.
      Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9573612-3-2
      Kindle ASIN: B0099RQNLU :: ISBN: 978-0-9573612-2-5

      Jackdaw E Books Ltd

       Extract  from "The Forthright Saga"

      A dark-haired fat boy and a thin ginger one crouched in the bottom of a beech hedge beside the garden wall of The Grange. It made a good base camp for war games outside in the lane, and for pirate raids into the garden itself.
      “C’mon, Wayne,” wheedled the fat boy. “That Mrs Station leaves the kitchen door open. When she goes out to nag the gardener, we could nip in, easy.”
      “Aw, Zak! She’d come in an’ catch us.”
      “No she wouldn’t,” Zak said scornfully. “She’s one of them twig women. She’d scream and run for help.”
      “Yeah, and she’d fetch him, that gardener.”
      Last summer, Captain Zak had urged various Pirate Crews over that wall in raids for raspberries, peas and ripening apples. The Crews had all been young, skinny and quick, and Ernie, who had been the gardener there for many years, was none of those things. Unfortunately when Ernie retired the situation changed. The new gardener was also skinny and quick and he worked far more hours than Zak thought was fair. The garden was dug and manured, the plants sprouted in pots and under cloches, the fruit trees were neatly pruned and the raspberry canes had been cleared of everything but their last summer’s growth. Zak hugged his denimed knees among the slender buds of the hedge, and resigned himself to the fact that it wasn’t yet worth sending his new Crew plundering.
      His previous Pirate Crews had long since mutinied to play elsewhere, and the choice of accomplices was becoming limited. He’d picked Wayne mainly because he was a new boy to the school. Being ginger-haired Wayne was easy to ridicule, and he was skinny and quick all right, but he wasn’t anywhere near as biddable as he should have been.
      “Dun’t be such a mardy-arse,” said Zak. “It wouldn’t hurt to have a look indoors. They’re rich, ain’t they? Look at that fancy lamp thing they put up. Dad says it must’ve cost a fortune.” The copper and etched-glass lantern over the front door had been a talking point for a week. “There might be summat. Big cars, locked gates, stands to reason they’ll have things we can nick.”
      Wayne wriggled. His Dad was Nora Forthright’s son, Dangleby born and bred, so in the back of his mind, he could hear the tones that his Grannie Nora would use if she found out he’d been stealing. Not the words; he could never predict what she would actually say. While it seemed scrumping had been all right in her own childhood, she’d tut-tutted and frowned theatrically behind those silly old-fashioned glasses when he tried to top her stories with Zak’s Pirate invasions at The Grange. As for stealing, real stealing from inside somebody’s house – oh no, he knew the shrill voice she’d use and his Dad’s hard hand that would follow, and he wasn’t keen on risking either of them.
      “That gardener can run faster’n me, so he’d catch you no trouble. And there’s cameras.”
      “Them things don’t work,” said Zak, ignoring the slur on his running speed. “Me dad says they’re just dummies. We could nip in after school. I bet they don’t turn ’em on until it goes dark anyway.”
      Wayne frowned over this; something didn’t quite make sense.
      “Grannie Nora thinks they’re real,” he said. “I’d rather play Spiderman.”
      Spiderman was a simple game to see who could climb highest in the local trees. It was one of the few challenges where Wayne’s slighter frame was likely to overcome Zak’s bulk, so Zak ignored the suggestion.
      “We should come at a weekend. We’d have plenty of time then.”
      Wayne sighed and abandoned Spiderman. “I’m not missin’ footie practice on Sat’dy.”
      “Sunday then,” said Zak, knowing that Wayne had never yet been chosen to play for the team.
      “I got jobs to do for Grannie Nora on Sunday. And the gardener might be here.”
      “He won’t be workin’ Sunday,” said Zak scornfully. “Just cos your Dad works Sundays, don’t mean wussy Alan does.”
      “Well what about Mr Station? I bet he’s home at a weekend. I’m not gettin’ anywhere near him – not with a name like Slogger.”
      “That’s only cos he plays cricket. You wouldn’t know him. You weren’t here last summer.”
      “Wi’ that big black car, I bet he’s a drug dealer,” said Wayne, his voice rising in desperation. “That’s why he’s got all them cameras. I bet that gardener’s a drug dealer too.”
      “Him? He’s not a drug dealer, he wouldn’t need to do gardening if he was. He’s that skinny I bet he sniffs coke. Bet Slogger Station pays him in coke an’ that’s why he’s always so wired.”
      This worldly wisdom fascinated and confused Wayne so much that curiosity overcame his fears. “You don’t smell coke, dummy, you drink it. Or else it’s that black stuff Grannie Nora puts in the stove to burn.”
      “You sniff it up your nose,” said Zak.
      “You do not.”
      “Do. Darren’s big sister Jade says.”
      Wayne thought about it for a moment. “That’s weird. You’d drown.”
      “It’s not a drink, dummy. It’s like a powder. Darren says it tastes funny. Jade told him she’d lock hers up if he tried it again.”
      “Does it taste like Space Dust?”
      “Yeah,” said Zak with certainty. “I suppose it fizzes more if you put it up your nose.” After a moment he said, “I got 50p, let’s ga down the Post Office and get some.” 

      Visit other fascinating blogs by contemporary novelists at the Book Fair.

      Sizing people up

      Ponies are so funny. Today they had come charging in for their tea and were troughing through it in the stable when our cottage visitors came up from the Hen Field after walking their terrier. Both Mr T and Ruby instantly stopped chewing and turned eyes, ears and noses to the door to assess the visitors. After a moment of utter silence they decided at the same moment that the new humans were neither interesting nor dangerous, and the chewing at once re-started.

      Talking of visitors, I am visiting Rebecca Giltrow's blog here:  do pop along and leave her a comment!

      Tuesday, April 9, 2013

      Historical Novelists' Book Fair 12-15 April 2013

       I'm a day or two early - but as I have a really busy weekend ahead I thought posting early would be excusable!  


      COACHMAN and 1830s Religious observance


      I will give away a digital copy of COACHMAN to two randomly-selected people who enter, between the dates of 12 and 15 April (Draw to take place on the 16th). Please follow me on Twitter (@jackdawebooks), or like my Facebook page (sue.millard.9) or like my Jackdaw E Books page on Facebook, or if you have already done all those things then please follow this blog and leave a comment so I know who you are and that you are entering the giveaway competition.

      I will contact you if you win and ask for your email so I can send the book. Please let me know whether you'd like MOBI format (Kindle), EPUB (Kobo/Sony) or a PDF.  All I ask in return is that when you've read the book you leave a comment on the Amazon UK web site (UK), or the Amazon USA site if that's your location.

      Religious Observance in England in the 1830s 

      Lucy's religious beliefs 

      My heroine Lucy Hennessy has had a rough childhood and adolescence, and until she meets my hero George Davenport she has only one solace that keeps her sane: her religious belief. She is lucky that her mother was tackled by one of the ‘slum parsons’ – a street preacher in this case – who convinced her that Jesus could save them both from their sins.

      We may think these days that the Victorian era was a heavily religious one, but in fact Thomas Carlyle wrote in 1838 that his age was one “destitute of faith and yet terrified at scepticism.” A census in 1851 recorded how many people actually attended Church service on Sunday 30 March, and found that roughly 30 out of every 100 people might have good reasons not to attend – for instance the sick, the very elderly and the very young and those who were compelled by the nature of their work to labour or serve on Sundays. Of the remainder, around 40 attended services and 30 did not. I was surprised. 40% may be higher than today’s turnout which has to compete with shopping and car-washing, but it was nowhere near as high a figure as I had expected for the mid-Victorian era.

      Although religious convictions and beliefs would have coloured many early Victorian social activities, active Church attendance varied both with social class and geography. Absence was highest in large towns in industrial areas, while attendance was best in small rural communities. A similar pattern appeared in the breakdown between types of church, with rural and small-town communities attending mainly Anglican services and the manufacturing areas favouring Non-Conformist chapels. This social distinction was indicated by describing people as either ‘church’ (i.e. Anglican and middle class) or ‘chapel’ (i.e. Nonconformist and working class).

      Ma Hennessy and Lucy ought to be ‘chapel’ by background, but the area of Carlisle in which they live is served by both the church of St Cuthbert and the Anglican cathedral, so Ma has the chance to attend a rather more upmarket place of worship than would be the norm for her class. It doesn’t work of course: at the end of George’s visit to the Cathedral with Lucy and her mother, we see how the middle-class Dixon family look on Ma Hennessy with disfavour. In this case, it isn't so much the social sneer of one class to another, but rather a reflection of Ma's previous history (and you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!). For my purposes, Ma's ambition means that Lucy received a better education, at the Central School, than many girls of her upbringing, which enables her to write fairly long letters. These keep her in touch with George when he goes ahead to find work in London, and then let her to brag to her acquaintances in Carlisle after she joins him and they are married. And, of course, we peer over her shoulder while she does so...

      Lucy Davenport's Journal. 

      Kendal, Westmorland, 28 October 1838.

      I have a small space of time in which to set some of down my private thoughts - empty time, the like of which I may not have again. Already I have duties in keeping the house and preparing for the birth of Our child. I hope and pray he will be a boy, brave and handsome like his father, but whatever God sends, I know our child will be loved.

      When we lived in the Lanes, the street preacher came to show us the Light and he, too, fought to bring our souls to Jesus. That my mother was drawn by him out of her depravity - at least in part - is the greatest reason for my gratitude to God and to His Son. Her nature, alas, is so venal that her conversion was never more than skin deep. Where I would have been content with chapel she must find a church where she might copy fine manners and scrape acquaintance with people above our station. Still I bless that man for bringing us to the Truth of God. When I gave my heart to Jesus all the sins I had been forced to commit were washed away and His armour was put upon me, so that I never again could suffer.

      I do not fear my coming labour. I have endured pain before, and cruelty, but I know from the witness of my own life that Jesus will support me. My love: If I should die and leave this world it will only be to wake in the next, in the safety of His arms. I pray for a happy outcome, but if it should turn out otherwise, I leave these thoughts for you, my dearest, and for our little one. I will be in Heaven, where I trust that you may come to me in time and we shall be reunited in the love of God.

      I say "I trust" because I know, my dear, how strongly you have fought against any belief in our heavenly Father. I pray nightly that you will come to know Him in all his loving kindness, as I do.

      George's scepticism

      George is more sceptical about religious belief and observance than Lucy is. His mother, as the daughter of a hard-gambling squire, may well have hoped to raise him in her own family's tradition, as an Anglican. However, his father’s family of skilled horsekeepers belong to the “artisan” class with whom the Anglican clergy are generally unpopular because they cling to the declining political High Tory party. Although George is familiar with both middle and upper class men who address him almost as a social equal on account of his driving skills, he doesn't share their political or religious beliefs. He tends to endure Sunday with suppressed impatience, and when he and Lucy attend church to arrange their wedding he is critical of the local vicar being late for the appointment.

      I worried initially that if I gave him free-thinking opinions about the Church and religious observance I might be accused of anachronism. My research, however, led me to Thomas Arnold (headmaster of Rugby School) who wrote in 1832 that “it does not do to talk to the operatives about our ‘pure and apostolic church’ and ‘our glorious constitution’; they have no respect for either…” At the moment George is apolitical but I think if I were to write more about him he might very well turn out to be a Chartist!

      So it turns out that the scepticism that his character kept showing as I wrote was not unusual for the period. What a relief!


      Good-looking and ambitious George Davenport travels to London with his bride Lucy, determined to make the most of his skill in driving a four-in-hand of horses. It’s 1838. Queen Victoria is crowned, and England is at peace, but it isn't a good time to be a coachman.

      Just as George finds employment with William Chaplin, the “Napoleon of coaching”, the first railways are about to open across the country. Their competition will kill off the road-coaching trade. George loves both his work and his wife, so he has a lot to come to terms with… even before the boss’s daughter starts to stalk him.


      Carlisle, October 1837

      Lucy first saw George strolling into the Blue Bell, seeming to bring with him all the sunshine of the crisp autumn afternoon. He stood his whip against the bar and doffed his smart hat to her most politely, and when he asked for ale his smile was so firm and handsome she had to stop herself hurrying, in her eagerness to serve him.

      After he’d taken the edge off his thirst he didn’t wander off to find a seat like most coachmen did. He unfastened the buttons of his driving coat to take in the warmth of the inn, and leaned his elbow on the little counter.

      Lucy seldom bothered to question her customers, but there was something steady and restful in his face, and something very appealing in his warm brown eyes.

      “Have you come very far?” she asked.

      “Oh, around,” he said. “Liverpool, Manchester, Buxton, all over.”

      “Buxton? Oh aye? I’ve heard it’s popular to take the waters if you’re poorly. But it must have done you good. You look quite healthy.” She gave a hint of a smile, inviting him to laugh, and he did.

      “I wasn’t taking a cure, saucy. I was driving a coach.”

      “As if I couldn’t have guessed.” She flicked a finger against the whipthong that hung like a coiled white snake from its stick. “Was it good work?”

      “Not bad. I drove the manufacturers, and the commercial gents, and their wives and families. It was nothing fancy.”

      This time she laughed, not believing him. “Oh, I’m sure it must have been.”

      “Well,” he said, “it was a business, just like yours, I suppose. If you can give your passengers something useful about the scenery or the places they should visit, they remember you and give you a good tip.”

      “And you had plenty to tell them, I suppose?”

      He only smiled a little. “They’re manufacturers – the new rich – people who want to move in society.  I don’t care so much for them because they don’t care how I drive – and that’s because they don’t know how it should be done! But if I had you on my coach, I’d find all manner of things to tell you.”

      “Oh, I couldn’t move in society,” she said. “I’ve lived here too long! But if you have a new way to stop the customers fondling me, I’d be glad to hear of it.”

      “Impossible,” he said, “unless you could put on a hundredweight of flesh and about forty years! And that would be a dreadful waste.”

      She had no time to answer before Mr Farrimond shouted, “Wench! Fetch us brandy, will you?”

      She excused herself and carried brandies to the fireside for Farrimond and his friend Armstrong. She considered her new customer. He seemed a bit cagey about his background but she couldn’t fault him for that: she knew what it was to need defences. Too many men had come and gone through the doors of the Blue Bell, and the other houses where she and her mother had lived.

      When she came back he was looking into an empty mug.

      “Shall I fill that up for you, sir?”

      “George,” he said. “Davenport. But you can call me George,” and when she reached for the mug he wouldn’t release it until she’d repeated his name.

      To download Coachman please go to my web site and follow a link to the format you prefer: Kindle (USA and UK) or E-Pub.

      Some references 

      Religion in Victorian England

      Religious Observance in Early Victorian Times

      Mannix, 1947: History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Cumberland

      Historical Book Fair bloggers

      1. Francine Howarth  19. Maggi  37. Elizabeth Hopkinson  
      2. Fenella J Miller  20. Suzi Love  38. Michael Wills  
      3. Paula Lofting  21. Jeanne Treat  39. DM Denton  
      4. Helen Hollick  22. Chris Longmuir  40. Richard Abbott  
      5. Martin Lake  23. Kiru Taye  41. Sue Millard  
      6. Jane Godman  24. Betty Cloer Wallace  42. Margaret Skea  
      7. J.G. Harlond  25. Christina Phillips  43. Wendy J. Dunn  
      8. Melanie Robertson-King  26. Suzy Witten  44. Bryn Hammond  
      9. Nicole Hurley-Moore  27. Kim Rendfeld  45. Sarah Waldock  
      10. Anne Gallagher  28. Kevin John Grote  46. Hilda Reilly  
      11. Deborah Swift  29. Ginger Myrick  47. Roy E Stolworthy  
      12. Derek Birks  30. Linda Root  48. Patricia O'Sullivan  
      13. Katherine Pym  31. Prue Batten  49. Glen Craney  
      14. Michael Wills  32. Pauline Montagna  50. Suzan Tisdale  
      15. Sandra Ramos O'Briant  33. Sophie Schiller  51. Jo Ann Butler  
      16. Elizabeth Caulfield Felt  34. Judith Arnopp  52. Charles Degelman  
      17. J L Oakley  35. Anna Belfrage  53. Gates of Eden  
      18. Alison Stuart  36. Jean Fullerton  54. Elizabeth Keysian