I’m so delighted to be able to share Eclipse with all of you.
Schola is the most elite of the magical schools of Albion, devoted to preparing the best and brightest young adults for a life of magic, innovation, and perhaps service. Students hurry from class to class, learning everything from writing to duelling, alchemy to astronomy.
Thesan is now established as the Astronomy professor, but is still one of the youngest and newest teachers at Schola. She is eagerly anticipating the upcoming eclipse, a rare event, as well as her usual classes and projects.
Isembard came to Schola last year to teach Protective magics and act as bodyguard and mentor to two sons of Council Members. He has settled into a pleasant life with a great deal of time in the duelling salle, and an amiable beer in the pub on Saturday evenings while he and Thesan mark assignments. This year promises to be even better, since Alexander, his own mentor, will be teaching Ritual classes.
No school year is ever simple. And it never goes the way you think it will.
Eclipse is full of astronomy, what makes a good teacher, student dramatics, glittering social events, academic politics, students who are possibly up to something, and whether a relationship might work between two people from very different backgrounds who have their own professional goals and expectations. Set in the 1924-1925 school year, Eclipse explores what it means to live, work, and love at Schola.
An unusual post from me, but I found I had some blog-length things to say about a currently ongoing conversation on Twitter.
Short version: If you want to support an author:
- Buy their books (or ask your library to)
- Tell other people about their books (leave a review, tell your friends, etc.)
- Support a reasonable copyright term that allows them to plan for the future and benefit over time from the work that has gone into the book.
When a recently established portal stops working in the Scottish Highlands in 1922, Rathna, a Portal Keeper, is assigned to figure out what happened. Gabe is assigned to assist her. Neither of them expect the challenges they find, the dangers of the local wildlife, or the way history and magic can come back to haunt you.
They’re both keeping secrets. Can they learn to trust each other, fix the portal, and move forward in the world?
Gabe is perhaps one of my favourite heroes so far – and a book set in the remote Scottish Highlands gives him plenty of scope to show off his skills and knowledge. Rathna is much quieter, the sort who looks before she acts, for all sorts of reasons.
(Sign up for my newsletter for a short character study about Rathna’s apprenticeship that I’ll be sending out in March 2021.)
Knitting for the war effort during the Great War involved all sorts of things. Some were simple – wristlets and mufflers (scarves), and socks. (I admit, I am intimidated by knitting socks.) They also included more complex items, like gloves designed to allow for easy shooting of a gun, or caps to be worn under helmets.
Elen, the heroine of my latest book, Carry On, does a lot of knitting. I wrote in my last post about wartime knitting in general, but I wanted to give it a try myself.
So I spent a bit of time in late November knitting up a set of wristlets. (About 7 hours, all told.) Read on if you’re curious about knitting your own historical pattern.
I ended up using a modernised pattern from Holly Shaltz, taken from a July 1917 issue of Modern Priscilla Magazine, using patterns from the American Red Cross. There are very similar patterns in British Red Cross guides too. Holly has patterns for a scarf there too.
British and American knitting needles are different sizes. Worse, needles during the Great War were also different from the sizes we used today. I was happy to use someone else’s guidance on an appropriate combination.
The yarn for these is in a colour suitable for wartime (not quite British khaki, but would not draw attention), Jagger Spun Heather in the Peat colourway. Basically any wool worsted-weight yarn should do for this.
My yarn comes from my local yarn shop, Mind’s Eye Yarns. Much thanks to the shop owner, Annie, who also consulted on some of the historical knitting here.
My adaptations and process
I have small hands, so instead of 20 stitches on a needle for a total of 60, I went for 16 each.
(Since the pattern runs in groups of 4 stitches, you probably want to add or remove stitches in groups of 4. If you want to remove fewer than 12 from the original pattern, you could remove 4 from just one side. This saves you having to remember whether you start each needle with knitting or purling.)
I used double pointed needles (three to hold the stitches, one working needle). I liked this pattern edit because it also gives an option for knitting flat and seaming the finished piece into a proper tube (leaving a hole for the thumb.)
Other than the multiple needles, it’s a very simple pattern – knit 2, purl 2. Repeat for as many rows as you need.
I did 40 rows total. 25 to the start of the thumb, 10 for the hole for the thumb, 5 more plus binding off to make the band across the palm above my thumb. They’re shorter than the original version, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much yarn I’d be using up.
For the thumb hole, I rotated so I could knit going the opposite direction, leaving the gap for the thumb – this worked great.
Let me know if you try your own Great War knitting project! I’d love to feature it if you’re willing to share.
A short video guide to getting started with historical knitting from Engineering Knits. (She’s also done some great Edwardian and 1920s pieces.)
British Red Cross knitting and sewing patterns (via the Internet Archive). Dated 1914. Includes everything from hospital clothing to knitting to dressmaking.
British Red Cross knitting patterns (PDF). Undated, but I think this is from around 1917. Includes patterns for sewing as well (pyjamas and other hospital attire.)
Historical Resource Shenanigans talks about a sock knitting project using a British Red Cross Pattern. (She’s also got a post about a Canadian knitting nurse.)
Some examples of American patterns (with modern samples) from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
The Antique Pattern Library for a wide range of (mostly not War related) historical knitting patterns
Carry On, my latest book, takes place in March 1915, early in the Great War. Knitting for the war effort was still ramping up to some extent, but many people were hard at work knitting all manner of items to go to the front.
Elen, my heroine, is no exception. She knits when she’s waiting to be called into someone’s office. She knits when her patient is dozing. She knits when she’s not doing something else with her hands. Basically.
What did they knit?
There was a huge range of war time knitting, but there were a few constants:
The items had to be practical
Mufflers (scarves), wristers or fingerless gloves, gloves, socks, and knit caps to go under helmets were the most common, but in the resources below you’ll see patterns for a few other things.
Items going to the front had to be a suitable colour. In 1915, this was a bit more flexible, but dark colours or khaki were common. White or other light colours not only would show dirt (and other things) but they could make it easier to spot you in the dark.
Wool was great.
Wool has a lot of advantages as a fibre. It wicks moisture well, and it will still keep you warm even if it’s wet. It was also widely available in the British Isles
Some modern techniques didn’t exist quite yet.
If you’re a knitter, you might be wondering about circular needles (patented in 1918, so not quite available during most of the War.)
Likewise, the Kitchener stitch (now widely used in sock patterns) didn’t start being used until 1918 – lore has it that it was intended to reduce trench foot. You can read more about the history in a post from In The Rounds.
Knitting for soldiers, a blog from the Kingston Public Library in Ontario, with some fantastic photos and images.
And American knitting for the war effort from Atlas Obscura. Also with great photographs of people knitting. I can’t decide if my favourite is the motion picture office employees knitting during lunch or the grand jury knitting socks.
Curious about knitting just before the War? Here are some examples of patterns and finished garments from The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done.
A short video guide to getting started with historical knitting from Engineering Knits. (She’s also done some great Edwardian and 1920s pieces.)
Coming soon, my own attempt at a (simple) pattern from the Great War.
I’m delighted to be able to share Elen and Roland’s story with you.
The first thing Roland remembers after being injured at the First Battle of Ypres is waking up in a hospital room at the Temple of Healing in Trellech. Over the following weeks, he is tended by a series of nurses, none of whom stays more than a week or two. He never sees the healer assigned to his case – and worse, he has heard nothing from his family.
Elen just wants to keep nursing. Sent home from the Front after a bad concussion and ensuing migraines, she knows that taking whatever assignment she is offered is her only option. Even if it’s a decidedly odd assignment – the sole nurse tending to an unusual patient. Together, she and Roland must figure out what is going on with his Healer, how to make sure he gets the care he needs to recover – and how to remember to have hope again.
Carry On is full of quiet resolution, knitting, and compassion. Set in the spring of 1915, it takes place early in the Great War.
(Paperbacks and library options will be following shortly, keep an eye out at my newsletter for when they’re available.)
If you’ve been by here in the last week, you’ll notice a few updates around here.
A new page for the books
These include more information about each series, and quick links to the books in order. (Here’s the main books page, the Mysterious Charm series page, and the Charms of Albion page.) Let me know if there’s more information you’d find useful here.
I know that there are some things you might not be in the mood to read (right now or ever), and also that some of you might be particularly interested in finding books that focus on certain things or characters. I’ve got a shiny new content notes page that fills in some of this information. (It does include some spoilers, though I’ve tried to avoid them as much as I can.)
If there’s something I haven’t covered, or something you’d like more information about, you’re always welcome to write and check with me.
I’m working on a way to more easily share some additional information with you, like maps and timelines. Keep an eye out here and elsewhere on social media for updates.
I’m delighted to share Pastiche with all of you. Join me for a romp in 1906 (pre-War Edwardian) to explore the history of two people who’ve appeared in the Mysterious Charm series, Lord Richard and Lady Alysoun Edgarton.
There’s an arranged marriage (that might turn into a true love match), a bit of smuggling, a curious museum exhibit, and a couple of my favourite secondary characters yet. And if you’ve wondered how magical duelling works in Albion, this is the book for you!
One of the things I love most about writing about Albion is being able to weave people through different books.
Sometimes this is in a big way. All the books in the Mysterious Charm series deal with people who are friends or allies or co-conspirators (as the case may be) with Lord Geoffrey Carillon.
But sometimes it’s more subtle.
Take Farran Michaels, for example. He first appears (if you read the series by number, which isn’t chronologically in time) in the first chapter of Goblin Fruit as one of the young men apprenticed to the auction house. He turns up later in Magician’s Hoard as a representative of the auction house (he’s now a more senior apprentice).
But how did he get there? And what’s with his particular gift for materia and objects? That’s where Seven Sisters comes in. While it’s his uncle who’s the hero of that book, Farran’s present for much of the action.
I love being able to tuck those little touches in. Albion is a sizeable community, but it’s not huge. With only a few more academically focused magical schools, people who went to those schools tend to know each other. Others interact in significant but small professional communities.
And, as an author, it’s a lot more fun to do a passing mention of a character I’ve already gotten to know in passing, rather than Random Standin#42.
Readers new to the series with that book should be able to follow everything, but people who’ve read and remember other books in the series should get a little bit of extra amusement, seeing a story from a different side.
It’s also a fun way for me to introduce characters who will be relevant in later books I’m already planning to write. You’ll be seeing more of a couple of guests from Carillon’s dinner party in On The Bias down the road, for example.
There is of course, one place right now where that’s a little trickier: Goblin Fruit and On The Bias. It’s very hard to disentangle Carillon (Lord, investigator, and Pavo breeder) from Benton, his valet. However, I also enjoyed the chance to see a bit more of Benton’s very real skills and talent, and to learn more about why Benton has chosen that role and service for some very good reasons.
As you’ve noticed if you’ve read Outcrossing, there are magical creatures in my books, as well as the ones we all know about. There are, broadly speaking, three categories.
Animals we know and love
These include your average ordinary wildlife – badgers, hedgehogs, ponies (Well, most of them. There are some magical ones, too.) Birds, snakes, lizards, all sorts of other beasties.
A magical variant
Sometimes there are magical variants of a given type. For example, the nightjar is an actual bird (with a very unusual sort of sound – you can hear an American cousin clearly starting at about 1:10 on this recording.)
This piece in the Guardian about nightjars (and other fauna of the New Forest) delighted me, and describes them as “somewhere between a kestrel and a crocodile in appearance”.
Twilight nightjars, however, are magical.
They sound like the non-magical variety, and have the same shape. And nightjars do live in the New Forest. But where the non-magical species are usually brown or buff, the Twilight Nightjar is more like the darker varieties of a Victoria Crowned Pigeon, with a good splash of iridescence. Their feathers and eggs are used in various magical potions and workings.
And of course, we have varieties of magical creatures who either live in Silence-warded spaces (so, fully magical), or like many creatures in our own world are not often seen.
These include wandermists (a cat-sized winged dragon that appears to be largely made out of mist), or the ginsies, which are poisonous to about half the people with magic (via an extreme allergic reaction, not that Carillon and Rufus would put it that way.)
Perhaps my favourite are the mirabiles, who live in the deepest parts of the forest, and are rarely seen, but look like dancing lights that sway and twist together. They’re decidedly animals, not Fatae, but they must be where some tales of faeries in the woods come from.
(One of these days, I would love to have illustrations of these. If you’re an artist this intrigues, glad to talk commissions with you and see if we can come to a mutually cheerful agreement.)