Friday, 12 February 2010

Doubtful comments

I found a comment on my blog this morning in Chinese, which I cannot read. I checked it in the translator, and words like "inverse sexuality" showed up....so, since such a theme had nothing whatsoever to do with the post itself, I deleted the comment. It is so dangerous to leave messages on the blog comments when they might, for all I know, be advocating the most extreme ideas and thoughts. So, on the basis of better be too careful than not careful enough in such situations, I removed it.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Query letters


Rachelle Gardner's website should be of use to authors here. The post that caught my eye was a list of the most common mistakes in query letters to literary agents. What comes across from them, among a lot of helpful tips, is the astonishing self-confidence of the people who send query letters. Well, it may not surprise you, but it surprises me.

But then, it always amazes me how people think that writing a book is easy. (Well, some do; others think it is impossibly hard and would never think of attempting it). About five or six years ago I took a call (at work) from a lady whose name I never knew, who wanted to know "how to get a book published." How should she go about it?

Just like that. Through the sounds of tea being slurped and biscuits being crunched, it came out that she "hadn't written it yet, but I know I can." Had she even started it? "No, not yet, but it won't take long, will it?"

The conversation made me look at myself. Why didn't I approach the thing with the same astonishing self-confidence? Why don't I breeze up to literary agents and critics and introduce myself with a beaming smile and say "Hello, how are you? You must read my latest offering, I'm sure you'll love it."

Show me a real, live literary agent and I'm likely to scream "Where's the nearest table, so that I can hide beneath it?"
Never mind. I'm sure I'll grow up and become accustomed to it all some day. Meanwhile, since we've had snow flurries again but no white stuff on the ground, I've used one of my pics of the Dent valley to remind us all what snow looks like on a good day.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Fame at last!


Lovely experience on Thursday! I went to Hexham for my exercise class but early enough to visit Waterstone's and Cogito before 10am.
Promoting my own work does not come easily, and in Waterstones I was all fingers and thumbs as I tried to get Till the Day Go Down out of its plastic see-through folder and not spill press cuttings all over the desk.
The lady seemed interested and promised to give the manager all details when she arrived, though she could promise nothing. That's fair enough - I understand that the big chains have their own supply routes, and I think Quaestor2000 are accepted on the Gardiners listings.
Then I went to Cogito and the lovely owner rocked me back on my heels by saying he had a copy on his shelves. He'd ordered two, and sold one already. He was happy to talk, and thought the Tudor period a good time in which to set a story. There was a lot of death, he said thoughtfully. Did I know that there had been an execution in Hexham market place - although he didn't think it was in Tudor times. The Duke of Somerset, about 20 years before Henry Tudor took over. There's a plaque in the market place and I must look out for it.
I certainly must. There's a lot in Hexham I ought to look out for, so in the summer I shall be out scouting about with my camera. I browsed his shelves, bought the latest Elizabeth Chadwick re-issue The Running Vixen (I thought it was new-new, but never mind) and practically floated down to the Wentworth Centre for my exercise class.
Meanwhile, before I get to Hexham, the pics today are of Corbridge. This is the west side of the church and the plaque - you can just see it in the wider view, settled between the two windows - explains all.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Elizabeth Seymour controversy

There's controversy over my book cover! Not about it being my book cover, of course, but over the identity of the sitter.

Victorian scholars identified the portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger as a likeness of Catherine Howard. Historian Antonia Fraser has argued that this image is far more likely to be Elizabeth Seymour, sister of Jane Seymour. The sitter wears widow's apparel. Catherine Howard would have had no reason to be dressed as a widow; but Elizabeth Seymour would, as her first husband had died in 1534 and her sister Queen Jane in 1537. The portrait has long been associated with King Henry's tragic young Queen and various people and places contest it to be a picture of Katherine Howard. The gift shop at the Tower of London depicts the picture as being Katherine Howard on its souvenirs. The National Portrait Gallery, which exhibits the painting at Montacute House in Somerset, remains undecided about the sitter's identity.

I like the picture, and love it as my cover. It was painted in 1541 and my story is set in 1543. Perhaps the garb is a little rich for my heroine, but the style of Alina and her mother's gowns would be modelled on such as this, with wide sleeves, stiff collars and blackwork at the neck and sleeves. Cheaper velvets, perhaps, and not so extravagantly cut and embroidered, but certainly of this style.
Those of you who remember their dates will know that Katherine married Henry in July 1540. By Nov 1541 she was in the Tower on suspicion of immoral conduct. My feeling is that the sitter looks older than Katherine ever got to be, and that if she had been painted as Queen of England there would have been more jewellery etc on show in the picture. Not a great deal is known about Elizabeth, though she was at court for some time. She was lady in waiting to both Anne Boleyn and her sister Jane Seymour, and married to Cromwell's son. There's a brief biography of her on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Book writing work

It's head-down time, no more excuses.
The snow has gone, and though its perishing cold
outside, we're comfortable inside. Sam has gone home, so no distractions there. (Though it is astonishing how many times I catch myself listening for the sound of his paws thumping about the house...)
So, its down to work. Though I may allow housework to distract me for a short while. The carpets are hoovered, the windows (well, one of them) cleaned because a pigeon flew into it trying to dodge a sparrowhawk and in doing so left a football sized mark on the glass.
But really, I must work. Though I should do a little PR for my latest title. Met friends for coffee yesterday and heard how pro-active one of them had been over her latest title. I felt ashamed that I'd done virtually nothing. So I'm thinking of visits to local bookshops and doing a little gentle promoting around the e-groups...and then there's the weekly grocery shop to do this avo or else we starve for the rest of the week.
See how easy it is to avoid doing any actual, bookwriting WORK? I'm a pro at it when I think about it.