Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Hay Fever

A brilliant sunny day yesterday, so not much work was done, but I did get a wash load dried, ironed and put away. There's not much work involved in putting  a washing machine on, and apart from that, we downed tools and soaked up the sunshine.
 Today it is me who has the odd problem - one of my eyes has swelled. Not the eye but the socket and lid. It's either a reaction to pollen, of which there is a lot drifting about on the wind, or some tiny insect has bitten me.

I shall be relieved when the farmer has cut all his hay because only then will my nose stop prickling and filling up. In England I don't suffer from hay fever, but here, I do. The cutting is partially done. I watched the farmer cart away about a dozen plastic wrapped bales this morning while I gave Tim his early morning walk around nine o'clock. That was quite late for Tim, but then I'd been out earlier, too, for he woke me just as it was getting light with a plea to go outside. Every bird in the locality was singing in the greyness and I was glad Tim is mostly white, for he showed up in the gloom no matter how far he wandered!

The final edit of The Craigsmuir Affair is ongoing. I have cut chunks of "local character" which gets in the way of the story. I don't suppose anyone would be interested in it but me.There are no signs of it being available as pre-order yet on Amazon. There must be more I have to do before that happens.
The irises are blooming everywhere around the lake and nearby damp fields. They look beautiful.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Third Day

Tim has survived his cut foot and had the time of his life today when two  farm dogs? - local dogs? turned up and played with him and in the river at the bottom of the garden. They stayed all afternoon and tonight he's flat out asleep.
It's good for him to socialise and it was interesting to watch him go from aggressive Get-off-my-patch to hesitant-can-we-play to full on play. We cut some more grass  and pulled up a few weeds from the patio while all this doggy fun went on.
Yesterday was dh's birthday and I promised him I'd cook. I did, but it was a disaster.  Isn't that typical? I think of all the meals I cook that are perfectly fine and then, when I want to please someone, everything goes wrong. Hangs head in shame. DH did the shopping and came back with a strange cut of beef. It may be a fine cut of beef, but it is not one I have seen back home. Still, it was listed as Beef steak. Perhaps the noisette oil I used was a mistake. Or the couscous I thought was an original idea is just not meant to go with salad and steak. The  wine was white and sparkly but sweeter than we expected. One lives and learns, and the moral of the story is take a French-English dictionary to the supermarche, and don't try odd combination for a special meal.

The weather is not very nice - damp, grey and threatening rain most of the time, but we're hoping for a better day tomorrow. We're inside tonight with the doors and windows closed, but of course we are here mid-May rather than mid-July. The good weather will come, I know it. Farmers have cut the first hay already but the meadows before they do so are a joy to see, so full of wild flowers. I remember fields like this during my childhood, but we rarely see them today in England..

PS Our meal tonight, cooked by DH, was fine. I may just let the maestro take over the kitchen. I'm not proud.

Friday, 15 May 2015

First Day

Our first full day at the mill was hot and sunny, and in spite of promising ourselves a quiet day after the long two day journey cooped up in the car, what do you think we did? DH got out the mini tractor and began cutting the grass while I unpacked and gave Tim several walks around the fields. I got involved in rescuing plant pots hidden in the long grass then divesting them of the slugs and snails that infested them. Both creatures are so much bigger than than the ones in my garden back home!

Then Tim ran over what turned out to be the base of a broken bottle in the long grass around the end of the mill pound. We only really noticed he was hurt when we got back to the bolly and saw he left a trail of wet red footprints with every step. .So then it was a case of holding his paw firm and tight (no evidence of glass in the paw) and try to stop the bleeding. For the rest of the day he went around with a gents hankie bound around the pad and a sock bound over to keep it in place.

The bandage lasted until this morning, when he greeted me at the side of the bed with this bundle flopping about at the end of his paw. When we got a look at it, the wound is clean and no sign of bleeding. The thing is now to try and keep him out of the muck and gravel. More easily said  than done.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Hatfield Forest

A brief entry to say we have reached our destination - I am now en France and endeavouring to think in another language. We enjoyed a halt at  Hatfied Forest on the way down. So close to Stansted on the M11 yet it is a world away from the busy 21st century. We spent three quarters of an hour there with Tim off the lead and racing through the buttercups. We're lucky that though he loves to run, he never runs far from me and his recall is good. We'll certainly stop there on the way back from France. It's a medieval hunting forest now looked after by the National Trust.

We have the chairs our on the bolly, the first of the grass has been cut and lunchtime approaches. Our first lunch in France!

Sunday, 10 May 2015


Something I'm trying for the first time with THE CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR - pre-order at Amazon.
I've set a date and loaded the cover. I've been given a date by which I must load all info, which is fair enough. Now I'll wait and see when and where it is listed - if it is!

Astonishingly, we haven't begun packing yet. It looks like it is going to be the usual last minute dash, but that's all part of the fun. Before we set off on the journey south I shall have to give Tim a good walk so he'll sleep until we get a good way down the country. That means getting up very early, but that's OK too, as we're usually alert and awake well before normal time when there's a big trip in the offing.

I'm trying to ensure that I have everything I want loaded onto my laptop so that I can continue to proofread while I'm in France. Disaster if I forget anything! Tennis is distracting me right now. It's the Madrid Open Final tonight and it is between Andy and Nadal. Finally, Rafa seems to be back on track, so I think I shall splurge £6.99 and pay for 24 hours viewing so I can watch the match. If I were to stay in England it would be better value to pay for a month but that's OK. The price is considerably cheaper than paying to visit the venue!

Spring is a lovely time to visit England - so many shades of green to enjoy. The froth of white in the pic is the mass of garlic flowers that have opened up in the last week. The bluebells are out too, in the shadier places.

Saturday, 9 May 2015


France beckons and as usual I'm stuck between the laptop and the desk PC. I must make sure everything I'll need is on the laptop otherwise I'm sunk. I had fond hopes of having The Craigsmuir Affair published before I went, but that is not going to happen. Only chapter one has been finally proofread, and even then I made changes!

We've been very social this week, with a trip to Dent on Wednesday and a dinner dance last night at the Hilton Hotel on the river at Newcastle. Evening went off fine except that conversation was impossible once the band started up and we left with our ears ringing. Why do they have to be so loud? I gather it is expected  nowadays, but fear that there will be a generation of people who go deaf before they are forty years old.

Unless I have a change of heart (and I doubt it very much) this will be the cover for THE CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Fear of Flying

You have to be over 50 to understand the hooha that went on when Erica Jong published Fear of Flying in 1973. It has sold more than 27 million copies and no doubt a new generation will discover it all over again now the author has given Isadora Wing a new outing in Fear of Dying. It is one of the hottest stories at the London Book Fair and goes some way to proving once again that publishers have their beady eyes on what will sell.

Fear of Dying tells of a woman in her 60s encumbered by dying parents, an ageing husband and a pregnant daughter and who feels the lack of sex as something too valuable to ignore. I am not sure that the majority of women in their sixties would prioritize their lives in quite that way, and thirty-somethings and youngsters probably think that the thought of their parents having sex as gross. Will a theme that sounds so depressing be as popular as publishers think?

There is evidence that publishers are scanning the self-published lists. Meredith Wild landed a 6-figure deal with Transworld in the UK and a 7 figure US cheque for her self-published novels about a young businesswoman's intense relationship with a billionaire. (A familiar theme?) A G Riddle gained a 7 figure deal for his self-published novel Departure, which features a plane from New York crash-landing in the English countryside.

Janet Ellis has won a book deal with a major publisher after submitting her manuscript under a pseudonym. A Little Learning is set in the 18th century, and sees a girl taken advantage of by her tutor. (Oh dear; sounds like sex and abuse; how can it fail?) As a friend of mine once said - Sex Sells.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Yawn time

It has rained all day to day, but to cheer myself up I've uploaded a picture from a better weather day. A day at the beach is in order again soon!

I've been working hard on Photoshop but I plan to start on the final edit of Daisy in a day or two, maybe even tomorrow. Then when I go on holiday I can take my laptop and start something new. That will be fun, for there comes a time when it is easy to get a tad bored with the story I've worked on for so long. When did I start? I can't remember clearly, but if you count the first attempt way back in 2009, then a long time ago. If you count only this last attempt, from about March this year, then not so long.

Writing can be hard slog. The beginning is fun because it is mostly research and pottering about making plans and timelines and then discarding them.Then comes the exciting moment when the first line is typed and then follows all the variations because we all know how important that first opening line is. Eventually it is time to move on and get into the meaty part of the story, and that is part exhilaration and part hard grind, but it has to be done and done on a regular basis as in day by day by day. The alternative is to have a long time gap and then forget the last plot point made, or get in a muddle by doing a different version of it. if you stick with the routine and do your daily quota of words (or something like it) then at last you type the last few words, and feel entitled to sit back with a silly grin on your face.

But it isn't over. You can't relax yet. Oh, no, not by a long shot. There's editing, and editing and final edits. That's where the boredom can creep in, because the story is so familiar there are no more surprises. Excuse me while I yawn.....

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Do It on a Layer!

Have made three possible covers for Daisy. The first one is rubbish, the second is better balanced and the third is better still. I'm on a roll now! The thing to remember - which I keep forgetting - is to do each step on a layer. That way I can rectify mistakes and make improvements. I  should enrol on a course and become more proficient at using Photoshop, but probably won't because I only think about covers once or maybe twice a year.

For my third cover I think I had about eight layers, all containing a tiny fragment of the cover. One for the background, one for the foreground figure, one for the banner, one for the title ... initially I tried to do everything on one layer and soon tied myself in knots. I am constantly in awe of the software which is brilliant. I just need a couple of uninterrupted years to learn how to use everything!

I know professionals in the publishing world sneer at amateurs who do book covers, but I don't mind. They have to protect their professional expertise, after all, and I used to feel the same way about library assistants being called librarians. If and if ever I have a book traditionally published, I'll be happy to have a professional cover. Until then, I'll go on trying and do the best I can in my own bumbling way, mostly because I enjoy it. That's why I write stories, too.

Our good weather has vanished, and we're back to wind and rain though not quite so violent or so cold as last month. I have a date with the dentist for a small filling this afternoon, so may not get a lot of work done today.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Fire lunatics

Going cross-eyed at the moment using Adobe Photoshop to work on a cover for Daisy. Not Adobe's fault, I hasten to add. The things the software will do are  amazing, but my knowledge of it is tentative to say the least. I use it so infrequently that all I learn in a few sessions is lost when I complete the task in hand and forget about Adobe for several months on end. I think if I was leaving school now I'd like to move into graphic art but it was just another unavailable option when I was at that stage. Unavailable? It was almost unheard of except for people who went to work for Walt Disney and that was all about working in cinema rather than computers.

We have some undesirables in the woods where I walk my dog. They think it amusing to set fire to to the resin that leaks from pine trees, and this is the result. They are pyromaniacs in the making, if not already there, for I see the remains of camp fires all over the countryside. One was still burning when I found it but the lads had long gone. These, I suppose, are the idiots who start forest fires.

It is horrid to see the trees like this or literally hacked to bits to provide fuel for a fire. There's plenty of dead wood in the woods without hacking at living trees.

The primroses hang on in damp shady spots, wood anemones are in full bloom and the bluebells are unfurling. Soon the woods will be a sea of hazy blue. The endless mud has dried and gone now, thank the lord. I was lucky I didn't slip on my backside sometimes, and both Tim and I got tired of coming home and having to wash him down. Heaven help the poor folk who own long-haired dogs.

The lambs are out in the fields, tiny and sprightly and I saw a fox, running across a field, in full daylight the other day. Tim watched and then gave chase, but he was nearly half a mile away so I wasn't worried he would catch Monsieur Reynard!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A day at the seaside

Yesterday was beautifully warm, even hot, and when today turned out to be the same - you can never be sure in England - we headed out to the beach with a sandwich and a bottle of water.

The weather has been amazingly good so far this year. There wasn't really much of a winter. It was wet and rainy, with mud everywhere, but never really cold. We've had several really lovely days so far and it is only April.

Apart from the fact that we had to almost strangle Tim to stop him dragging us out of the car and onto the beach, it was wonderful. Sunshine, not enough wind to even call it a breeze, but not the stupifying hot days we sometimes get in July and August. Not too many people on the beach, but enough to make it interesting. Most had a dog - if they didn't they had a metal detector. There seems to be a sudden enthusiasm for detectors. We saw four this morning, all on the beach. They may turn up modern coins, but I can't imagine them finding much in the way of ancient artefacts. There has been a series on "detectorists" on tv recently, and it seems to have inspired men to try it. I passed a man with one beeping away in the woods near the castle not so long ago, and asked him if he'd found anything. A few modern coins, he said with a grin. "And some tin cans."

I love taking wellies to the beach as that means I can splodge in the shallows without my feet turning blue or getting wet. It also keeps the sand out of shoes. One thing I remember well from childhood is Clarke's sandals, so hopeless on beaches. Two paces, and the sand seeped in and made lumps and bumps beneath your feet.So uncomfortable you had to stop and empty the sand out, and then start again. The only answer was to take the wretched things off, and then - you've guessed it  - your feet slowly turned blue with cold.
  Tim ran in and out trying to eat the waves but disliking the taste and soon got wet. Didn't deter him though. We walked for a good two hours with a short pause to eat the sandwich I'd made and then turned for home. Now I'm happy to sit at my computer and so dome work, and Tim is asleep behind me. Peace!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Craigsmuir Affair

A busy week over - appointments made and kept with Dentist, Optician, Medical practice and we've had the kitchen re-vinyled, and the living room and stair-plus-landing re-carpeted. We're looking spick and span, smell of new carpets and we're good for another twenty years now.

With the help of my friends in the critique group I've finally hit on a title for my story about Daisy - wait for it - THE CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR.
Here's the first page to hopefully whet your appetite:

Setting and period: Clennell Castle, Northumberland, 1893

Daisy Charlton swept the sheaf of papers into her arms, cast a final glance around the small room that had been her work place for the last week and then closed the door behind her. She hurried along the gallery toward the stairs, swung one-handed around the newel post and scampered down the first steps to the main body of the library.

Someone below snapped a newspaper straight.

Diverted, she looked down. Sun-browned hands held the newspaper open in such a way that she could see nothing of him but legs clad in riding breeches and knee-high brown leather boots. Her feet tangled in the folds of her long skirt. Her stomach lurched, she stumbled, missed the shallow tread of the stair and turned her ankle on the edge of the next.


She grabbed for the banister, missed and pitched forward. Her precious papers sprang into the air and fluttered around her like a cloud of newly released doves. As her hip and shoulder collided with the shallow tread of the stairs, Daisy yelped, bounced and rolled down the stairs.
‘Good God!’ The sound of crushed newspaper followed the exclamation.

Daisy struck hard, was caught and held. Dazed, she inhaled the mixed scents of smoky sandalwood, starched linen and something spicy like black pepper. A steady, rhythmic thud sounded in her ear. When she opened her eyes, the pin tucks of her white blouse pressed against the fawn moleskin of a gentleman’s waistcoat. Her right hand clutched the rough tweed of his sleeve. Her left, trapped behind her, trailed on the parquet floor.

She drew a deep, shivery breath. The pressure of his hand on her ribcage increased and his upraised knee held her spine at an awkward angle. Uncomfortable and embarrassed, Daisy nudged the pale silk of his cravat with her head. ‘I cannot move.’

‘I beg your pardon.’ His voice was deep and warm. ‘But if I let go, you will fall to the floor.’
She tilted her head and frowned at the lean, handsome face above her. To struggle free would be undignified. ‘I do not know you, sir. What if someone were to come into the library and find us like this?’

‘I suppose I should have to marry you.’ His smile held mischief. ‘Are you sure you have no injuries?’

‘Until you release me I cannot tell.’ The words came out more snappishly than she intended. Heat rose in her cheeks; she bit her lip. For Heaven’s sake! He would think her an idiot, probably laughed at her, but was too kind to show it.

He raised both hands in the air.

As he had predicted, Daisy slid from his upraised knee to the floor. She landed with an undignified grunt. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Writing Style

69 Pages of edit done. Don't know how many more to do, but I'm less than half way through. Interesting to see how many small duplications there are, usually between the end of a chapter  the beginning of the next. Writing the story I tend to write in chapters, and so I have a sort of mental break between ending one and starting the next. That's where the duplication creeps in as I don't recall precisely how I ended the chapter and begin the new without checking. There's a lesson there somewhere!

I'm reading Extraordinary People by Peter May at the moment. It's an Enzo MacLeod story set in France and the story visits Paris, Cahors, and the Correze - all places I've visited, which always adds an extra frisson to a read. But I am astonished at the amount of location description I'm reading. My critique partners would be telling me to cut some of it. They often highlight my use of -ing endings, too, and yet Mr May uses them such a lot. One sentence stopped me dead because he had used two, one following the other. I am enjoying the story and don't mind his writing style. It is just interesting how often a successful writer's style contravenes what the writing gurus on the internet say we should do to achieve success. I think it is a little like a healthy diet - in spite of all the experts telling us to eat this and avoid that, eating everything in moderation is probably the best route. Likewise with gerunds and adjectives.

Spring is beautiful this year. We still have primroses in shady places among the trees, daffodils are dancing in the wind, and the cherry blossom is coming into bloom. Gorse is vibrant with yellow flowers and the leaves are bursting open on the trees and presenting a soft bloom of various shades of green. Garlic is rampant and green among the bluebells, neither of which have produced flowers yet, but it won't be long now.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Take a Break

We've had a week of splendid weather and I've spent a lot of it outdoors, so writing has taken a back seat. Considering it's only April, the weather has been amazing, reaching temperatures of 20 and 21 degrees. I'm so not used to such heat that working at anything was a trial! The forecasters claim the weekend is going to be cold, so I tell myself I'll catch up then.

Sometimes I need a break from working at the computer day after day. I get some relief every day now I have my dog, because he's a high energy type who needs a lot of exercise. He gets three walks every day and he's just impossible if he doesn't get those walks. While I'm out with him I see how much new growth there is on trees and shrubs, even on the meadows as the grass begins to grow again. The range of colours in tree foliage is beautiful and changes day by day. Watching him bound across streams, leap fallen logs and bouncing through mud patches is such a joy.

But sometimes the three walks a day are not enough and the temptation to abandon the computer becomes too much. So I give in to it, because I know that I won't produce anything worth while until I've refreshed my mind by pulling lots of fresh oxygen into my lungs. There's nowhere better for that than walking in forests.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Do surveys help book sales?

Everyone said it, but I didn't really believe it. Now I think it may be true. The book world is changing. What brought me to this momentous conclusion? I've been looking at Alison Morton's  survey :

and I did not see library or bookshop mentioned anywhere. I shall go back and read again just to be sure I didn't skim over the words. Skim reading is a diabolical habit of mine - so often I miss the important bit and have to go back and find it!

I think I knew the worst about video trailers. Hardly anyone watches them and that is a pity because, like Alison, I enjoy making them. I did the first one six or seven years ago when I knew very little about the process, and didn't own Photoshop software. Off and on over these last few weeks I've been editing photographs in order to make a trailer for Abduction of the Scots Queen - but now I think Why Bother? Then my other side kicks in and argues Why Not? I've done a fair bit of work on the pics so far, and I may as well garner  what I can from what now seems to have been a time-wasting project.

I must take down few video trailers  I have up on You tube. They look so amateurish I cringed when I checked them today! Or maybe I can re-vamp them somehow. Strangely enough the worst one has the largest view count - perhaps people recommended it as what not to do!