Monday, 29 February 2016

Sir William Lower and Astronomy (Welsh History)

Knowing my interest in Welsh history my husband passed on to me something he stumbled across about astronomy. The famous names in astronomy are Copernicus and Galileo. But a contemporary of Galileo in England was Thomas Harriot, and his friend and pupil Sir William Lower in Wales.

Lower gained an estate called Traventi or Treventy in Carmarthenshire through his marriage. On the night of 17 September 1607 he was on a ship in the Bristol Channel on his way to Kidwelly to go to his estate, when he saw a comet. He recorded his observations then, and every night until 6 October and sent them to Harriot. Next time it returned it was recognised as Halley's Comet.

Halley's Comet
These observations were made with the naked eye. The telescope was invented in 1608 and within a year it was in the hands of Galileo and Harriot. Harriot sent one to Lower, who set up an observatory on high ground. Together with his friend John Prydderch (or Protheroe) they recorded amazingly accurate observations of the moon, amongst other things.

According to Allan Chapman, 'In the light of the above, and the information contained in Lower's letters to Harriot, two historical claims might be advanced. Firstly, Sir William Lower may have been the first to have received a telescope as a Christmas, or maybe a New Year's gift (having been observing for over a month by 6 February 1610). Secondly, “We Traventine [Trefenti] Philosophers”, who met at Lower's house to discuss Kepler and look at the moon through a telescope, might qualify as the earliest amateur astronomical society to meet in the British Isles.' (Stargazers: Copernicus, Galileo, the Telescope and the Church, p.270)

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Intruders: Blog the Book 13.1

If you want to read this book from the beginning, go here. This week Captain Darrow gets reports on the crew and Ryan takes over sick bay from the injured Dr Robinson. My idea of Ryan is a young Leonardo de Caprio.

Intruders chapter 13 scenes 1 & 2

Once the Kestrel had taken off, Darrow called Holland to his office.

‘I’ll read the detailed reports later,’ Darrow said, ‘but what are your overall impressions as to how the crew dealt with the situation on Pallas?’

‘Very good overall, Captain.  Everyone played their part, even though conditions in the mine were difficult.  Enns did better than expected.  Lieutenant-Commander Hoy said she was useful, obedient and didn’t complain.’

Monday, 22 February 2016

Rape of the Fair Country (Welsh History)

Last week I wrote about the industrial explosion in Wales. It brought prosperity and massive change to the area, but it wasn't all roses. The immense explosion of ore smelting and related industries in Wales, particularly South Wales, meant there was a huge need for manpower, and people came from far and wide looking for opportunity and employment.

Before 1850 there were just 1,000 people living in the Rhondda. By 1910 there were over 150,000. Housing was thrown up all along the valley sides, with poor water supplies, primitive sanitary arrangements, overcrowding and disease. On top of this, the beautiful green valleys were soon black and stinking.

Thursday, 18 February 2016


Last Friday I tripped in the street and bashed my face on the pavement. My husband took me to the hospital and we were there over four hours. Nothing is broken, but I am badly cut and bruised. The incident shook me up and I am finding it hard to concentrate. 
I am healing well, though, and hope to be back blogging next week.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Intruders: Blog the Book 12.4

This is your last chance to join my mailing list and be one of the first to see the artwork for the Kestrel (see last weekend’s post). Sign up here. This week we read Tabitha’s journal of her first mission. To read the book from the beginning, go here. My idea of Tabitha is athlete Ellie Symmons.

Intruders chapter 12 scene 4

Tabitha's Journal

Well, I've served in my first mission - not what I expected at all - and I've started to get to know some of the crew - also not what I expected. The trouble is, when I joined a ship I expected to be older, more experienced, and on more of an equal footing. The crew are so far beyond me in experience that it's hard to relate to them. It's more like being on a ship full of school teachers.

Andrew is being a real help, even though he's nearly twice my age. Roy is nearest my age but he creeps me out a bit. I don't know what it is - he's always friendly and helpful, but he keeps watching me and winking, and he stands too close. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I don't know how to respond to him.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Industrial Explosion (Welsh History)

In just a few years Wales, especially South Wales, went from a largely rural economy to a massive industrial one, mostly based on smelting and related processes. Copper and tin, then iron and steel, chemical works, refineries, and rolling mills.

Swansea valley

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Breaking News - See the Kestrel!

I'm interrupting the blogging of Intruders to share some exciting news. I finally have a picture of the Kestrel! But I've promised the crew members they will see it first - so sign up now!

What does the Kestrel really look like?

I've tried so many ways to get an artist to realise my vision of the Kestrel, and very few produced anything at all, and those that did, drew their own ideas, not mine. 
Note to artists: pay attention to the brief.
Note to authors: make sure your brief is detailed.

Thanks to my son Vince, I finally found an artist who drew what I imagined, and more. I'm so excited! The next stage is to create the cover for Intruders, which I already have in mind. That will be revealed to crew members first too, so another reason to sign up. My newsletter only goes out about once a month, and includes information about all areas of my writing, and when you sign up you get 4 free gifts, one for each area, so quite a bonus.

Join the crew, we would love to have you, but you've only got a week before the exclusive reveal!

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Daughters of Rebecca (Welsh History)

Between 1839 and 1843, the Daughters of Rebecca burned workhouses and smashed toll gates across south-west Wales. But the Daughters of Rebecca weren't daughters and no one is sure who Rebecca was.

Wooden monument to the Daughters of Rebecca
The population was rising, food was short and landlords were raising rents. But the focus of unrest was the proliferation of toll gates and the high level of tolls. Originally the purpose of the tolls was to pay for the building and maintenance of the roads, but the tolls were far too high and, for example, there were eleven different turnpike companies around the town of Carmarthen.