I’m at Vindolanda starting the second week of a two week period of volunteering – taking part in the ongoing archaeological excavations at this wonderful site near Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. This is my fifth year of doing this and coming back each time feels in a way like coming home. (A strange feeling to have for an area of Britain that endured almost four centuries of Roman occupation.)
But there is something about this landscape that calls to me. Spending two weeks of the year scraping away layers of earth and stone is an incredibly satisfying experience.
Most of the rest of the year my time is taken up with digging into the lives of the characters in my stories. Frustrating and rewarding in equal parts – much like during the excavation period when I have a personal drought in the finds department while the person next to me uncovers an amazing artefact. (I keep hoping to find an abandoned cavalry sword, but that seems unlikely to happen in the next week.)
On June 1st my eighth novel, Calling Home, is released by Affinity Rainbow Publications. When I started writing the story I only had a vague idea of how it would end – and when I was floundering about in the mushy middle, there were times when I wondered if I would ever actually get there. But as with any excavation, digging through layers eventually yields results. Each of the main characters discover things about themselves that have lain hidden for many years.
Setting the story on an island in the middle of a lake gives it the feel, I think, of a ‘cosy’ mystery. All the characters are there for a reason which is eventually revealed. There’s even a bit of police work involved but I don’t think I’ll be closing in on Agatha Christie territory just yet.
And, with it being a romance, there is a good chance that one or two characters might fall in love.
Excerpt from Calling Home:
With lunch out of the way and most of her dinner prep done, Berry removed her apron and hung it up behind the door before venturing out into the sunshine. Three days of sun in a row. She was all for global warming if it was an improvement to the climate of the British Isles.
Galen was just disappearing around the corner of the house, wearing a backpack and carrying her longbow case. Berry followed at a discreet distance. She had heard Galen telling Sarah that the archery range was set up and she would be trying it out that afternoon.
She let Galen get ahead of her, slowing her steps. Berry knew another way to get to the clearing so that the other woman wouldn’t hear her approach. The route took her close to the lake and then looped back through the woods again. As she reached the edge of the open space, she heard the muffled sound of an arrow hitting the straw target boss.
Leaning against a tree just out of Galen’s line of sight, she watched her nock another arrow onto the bowstring. In one fluid motion, Galen lifted the bow and drew the string back to her face. When she let the string go, the arrow flew straight, landing on the outer edge of the gold. Without removing her gaze from the target, Galen nocked another arrow and raised the bow again. This time the arrow found the centre. With a grunt of satisfaction, she set the bow down and walked forward.
Berry moved out of her hiding place and waited for Galen to return after collecting the arrows. She didn’t seem surprised to see her and Berry wondered if she had known she was there all along. Suddenly ashamed of her stalkerish behaviour, Berry could feel her cheeks reddening.
Galen just smiled and said, “Do you want to have a go?”
“I don’t think I’m strong enough.”
If you’re feeling strong enough, the first chapter is available here.
And I hope I’m strong enough to cope with the next week of digging. The weather looks set fair so we’ll keep at it and see what secrets can be revealed.
The Starling Hill Trilogy: