Monday, July 15, 2019

Predicting weather through proverbs:St Swithins Day by Michelle Styles

Today (15 July) is St Swithin’s Day. In English folklore, if it rains today, England is set for 40 days of rain. If it is sunny, 40 days of sun.  What is interesting is that his day  used to be 2 July but was changed to the 15th – L believe after the change to Gregorian calendar. In Norway, it is still celebrated as 2 July and they have the same sort of proverb.
There is some truth to the legend as weather patterns with the Gulf Stream and England are often set about this time. Some say it is more around midsummer than mid-July. The legend was first recorded  in about the 12th century.  St Swithin was the bishop of Winchester from 852 -862 and apparently a terrible rain storm made his coffin float out on to the road where it had to reclaimed.
People suspect the saying was co-opted to him to make it acceptable in the Christianised world and that it was quite possibly associated with some other god or goddess before that. It is one of the things early Christians did —  co-opting or creating a hybrid belief with some saint which had previously belonged to some god. In this way, they made it easier.
What is interesting is that other European countries have similar sorts of proverbs but attributed to different saints.
Anyway I am hoping that the weather stays fair today as my bees have been suffering in the rain and I would like to get a good crop of honey. I remain hopeful because of the old saying – a swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm in June a silver spoon but the swarm in July is not worth a fly.  My bees swarmed in June and the new Queens have finally started laying and the colonies are starting to build.   Again, the old proverb has some merit as the earlier bees swarm, the more likely it is to have the colonies build up to sufficient strength. Most late swarms are what are called casts  or much smaller swarms.
Collecting old proverbs about the weather and animal behaviour is something I have started to do since I started keeping bees because there is some truth in the observation.
We are not in a drought up here in Northumberland so I am hoping for a fair day and I think we might just make it.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods including Roman, Regency and Victorian but most recently Viking. Her next novel will be A Deal with Her Rebel Viking (to be published December 2019). You can find out more about Michelle and her books on

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: These are a few of my favourite Apps...

Pic by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay
Back in May I asked for app suggestions for my first smartphone. Thanks to you, I'm now on Instagram as christinahollis8664. 

Although I've loved using my  phone's camera from Day One, I haven't posted anything with it yet. I've been snapping several rarities in the woods around here, and didn't want them tracked down. It took me a while to find out how to switch off the EXIF tracker on my phone.
The Day Job—
find out more at
Checking my Twitter and Facebook accounts is always fun, but I try not to do it too much when I'm out and about. There's plenty of time for that when I'm sat at my computer. When I'm away from my desk, I'd rather enjoy the face-to-face company of friends  than stare at a screen.

When I'm walking the dog I (quite literally) dip in and out of BBC Sounds, the radio app. Although I can download podcasts and listen offline, live broadcasts lose the signal beyond about a hundred yards/metres from home. It's a case of miss the end of a radio play, or turn round and start for home!

My top favourite app at the moment is definitely Headspace. This was mentioned during a women's empowerment course I went on during June, which was organised by the University of Gloucestershire. The course was amazing. You can find out more about that on my blog. Headspace teaches mindfulness through meditation. I spend fifteen minutes or so each morning using it to calm my mind before another busy working day

It's a lovely way to find some perspective.

Christina Hollis's first non-fiction book, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol is published by Pen and Sword Books. You can find out more about that here, catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Cottage in the Woods

Future Studio

See that picture at the top of the page?  That's the site of our future pole-barn. And you know what'll be in the pole-barn? My future studio!!! My studio be facing the woods and pond. There'll be lots of windows and a big porch out the back.  I soooo can't wait!

It's been a crazy summer so far and craziness appears to be on the calendar for the rest of the summer. So whenever I can, I take a moment to myself enjoying the silence. Well, not silence. I hear cars go by and a lot of birds. But that's about it. That silence is a balm. I didn't talk, didn't turn on music. I just settled in that silence by myself.

I was thinking about silent religious orders and realized I get it. There's a certain appeal to being that quiet. To listening to yourself think.  When things are chaotic here, quiet days like this are a balm and recharge me.

My pond.
People tend to move full steam ahead. Jobs. Family. Chores. Sometimes everyone needs to just stop and listen to ourselves think.

I'll keep you posted on the studio. First project is having a road put back to it and leveling out that site (which is currently a big pricker patch). They're supposed to do that next week, then a week or so later, the pole-barn starts! By the time I run out of ceramics classes at the university next spring, I should have my own workspace. A studio in the quiet, quiet woods. Perfect!


PS Looking for something to read? Check out my New Releases and Books on Sale...and when you're done, please leave an online review!

Books On Sale:
Just One Things (Which is set at my fictionalized cottage in the woods!)

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Writing the Male Point of View by Susan Sands

I attended an author event for my friend, Kimberly Belle's new release, Dear Wife,  a few days ago at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA.
She was in conversation with my other friend, Emily Carpenter, another suspense/thriller author. The book is fantastic and I highly recommend it to everyone. But I bring this up because, during the course of author conversation, Emily remarked on how well Kimberly had written the main male character's point of view in the book. The discussion was a good one.

I've written men's points of views (POV) in all my books so far and find it to be a fun challenge. Obviously, women writing as men can only do our best to nail the thought processes and actions that drive another sex. Men and women often think and act differently  because of our biology, along with other factors we set up in our stories.

Obviously, there's a huge variation in the range of men's behavior and personalities, same as women. Not all men are the same. No two people are the same. Hormones, nature and nurture, and straight-up genetics determine humanity and how a person behaves. Every character is unique.

This isn't a "women good, men bad" post. Just some things I've picked up over time.

There are some behaviors in the male characters I've written, both alpha and beta that I've taken from the males I've known in my life. These often differ from the women I've known. Keep in mind, I'm talking about behaviors, some very subtle, some not. They might even be considered stereotypes, but only for showing purposes. When writing, this is meant to be nuanced and subtle, and very specific to each character. This is my experience and opinion, so no need to take offense...

These are sliding-scale societal norms that seem to be changing lately. But not completely yet:

*Men often are confident in their opinions, decisive, or they make people believe they are.

*Women tend to go through the minutia of each idea and feeling. Men feel the feelings and have the thoughts, though in a less expansive way. They ask why less and wonder less about their role in how it all started. They are more about how to fix it.

*Men are less inclined to show outward emotion or cry. Often show emotion or sadness as anger.

*Men can be goal-oriented and see things in a less-complicated way. Women tend to worry about all the things in between:  everyone's feelings and emotions, the pitfalls, the possibility of failure. We worry about everything and everyone. Men often have an over-simplified view of getting to the solution then but get mired in the mess along the way.

*Often turn away from others when in need of comfort or emotional support. Women, in general, turn to friends and family for comfort.

Emily told Kimberly she had a mean man inside of her, which made us all laugh. As I'm reading the novel, Dear Wife, I now see what she meant. The male character in the book is a bad guy. This guy is flawed, angry, and has abused his wife for years. Kimberly is none of those things, but she's done an excellent job in persuading the reader that she knows this man.

I hope all the readers out there appreciate how much time and effort their favorite authors put into making their novels authentic. Writing outside sex and culture takes an extensive amount of research and work to get right. We don't take it lightly and don't just throw in "stereotypes" and hope it works out.

I did work out some basic male stereotypes to give examples of the differences of writing male and female characters but it's far more nuanced when done right. I hope I do it right.

And I hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July holiday!!

Susan Sands