Monday, 30 December 2013

Goodbye Christmas, hello New Year

Christmas is over for another year, and we can all calm down and gather our strength for New Year. Our guests are leaving today, jetting off to Zermatt for some skiing, so the house will soon be calm and quiet again and I'll have to get to grips with catching up on household tasks. One thing we won't have to do is go shopping. It seems we overshopped by a mile and seriously over estimated how much we would eat. OTOH, we have drunk all the alcoholic supplies - surprise, surprise!

Thanks to the good weather, which has been so mild that honeysuckle is budding and gorse is flowering in sheltered spots, we've indulged in some bracing walks - Stocksfield woods,  Chopwell woods, the beach at Seaton Sluice, and our regular good old riverside walks. Our guests travelled as far afield as the creamery at Hawes in search of real Wensleydale cheese. Evidently they can't get it in Australia. Nor can they take any back as the regulations on food importation are very strict and quite rightly so. The UK has suffered from the import of so many species like the grey squirrel, mink and a particular kind of crayfish to name but three. Travellers brought back all sorts of things from abroad, and some were good like the glorious rhododendron  but then we suffer with Himalayan Balsalm crowding our hedgerows and riverbanks.

Very little writing or critiquing was done by moi in the last week, so I'll have to get back into the grind again. Not that it is a grind, really. I wouldn't do it if it were something I hated. Sometimes getting the words down or deciding which way to go next in the story is difficult, but I let it simmer about on the back burner for a while and it usually becomes clear which way I want to go, and the words start to flow.  I'm really behind with critiques for my writing colleagues, so perhaps that is what I shall start with this afternoon.

I haven't even seen Death comes to Pemberley yet!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Otters and dog coats

It seems we have otters in the Tyne at Ovingham. When I first heard the news that they'd been sighted, I was pleased. Now I'm not so sure. The reason? The creatures fish for food and seem to be so successful at it that they catch more than they need, bite the head off and leave the rest to moulder on the river bank. Then, some innocent dog-walker comes along and wonders why his dog suddenly takes off and then pounces on something in the grass.
You've guessed it - they've discovered the possibly days old discarded fish and they're eating it. Sometimes, like today, all that was left was the bony skeleton and a few scraps of skin. If you don't get there in time, then down it goes and the dog's breath also stinks for the next few days. There must be health risks to these disgusting habits, so I always try and get Tim to leave it. He isn't keen to do that. Talking to other dog owners, some say their dogs roll in the remains and then have to be bathed when they get home. I'm beginning to wish the otters had selected some other part of the Tyne to make their home.

We had our first frost yesterday, and the temperature dropped to 2 degrees C, -1 overnight, so Santa brought Tim's coat just in time. His fur coat is very fine and  not thick, and he trots out quite happily in his smart maroon coat. We passed a couple of Mamelukes which reared up trying to get at him (they were on the lead, fortunately) and in doing so displayed all that lovely thick fur all over their bellies as well as their backs. Tim's tum is hairless, so no doubt he felt the cold. It is maybe a tad big for him, but he'll chunk out more, and then it will be just right. It's his first birthday on 30th, so we'll have to see what we'll be doing to celebrate!

Meanwhile we shiver in wind and rain, both ferocious, but the temperature has gone up to 6 or 7. Pity. It was fun watching Tim skating on the iced-up puddles.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas is here

Christmas Eve and guests scheduled to arrive from Oz within the hour. House scrubbed, fridge stocked, will probably fall asleep about mid-afternoon as soon not used to housework! Took Tim for a walk early this morning and managed to come home without being coated in mud. Funny how only men were dog-walking this morning - women probably chained to the kitchen. But Maybe I do both sexes an injustice...men on holiday, women happy to let men walk the dog? A distinct possibility.

The news this morning cites the pardon for Turing, and, as with all these posthumous pardons and apologies I cannot see the point. Times have changed so much in the sixty years since he died. Plus which he will never know, so who are we pleasing with this? I never saw much point in the current craze for offering apologies over national wrongs in the far distant past. Apologise now for something you've just done and regret, to the person you hurt, of course. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to realise it is necessary, but if  both of you are still alive, then do it and feel better. But after four hundred years when all parties involved are long dead and forgotten - is there a point? It has to be lip service to  a large degree. But then politicians are good at that.

I know it's the season of good will and all that, but sometimes I think we are too forgiving for our own good these days.  Before you all shout and tell me to go retire in my corner and not come out again, let me wish you all a happy and serene festive period and a prosperous, healthy and happy 2014. I may not get much writing done in the next few days, but I'll be working hard in the coming few months. Ideas are bubbling and I may just get them down on the computer before too long.

The picture was taken in Kielder forest last week. A riot of winter colours.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Complacency

I gave myself a fright  yesterday. Working away, everything going well, I attempted to cut and paste one paragraph into a different position - and succeeded, heaven knows how, in deleting the entire chapter. Granted it was only half done, and it's a mere 16,000 words gone into thin air, but those words had taken me a long time to get onto the page.

Needless to say, I quietly panicked. Instead of checking auto recovery, I wandered all over the place seeking the missing file, trying this, trying that and in doing so probably consigned the document to the outer reaches of cyber space.

I wailed out loud on Facebook and several kind people tried to help, but nothing I did brought the document back to my screen. It was a rude wake up call - I have got out of the very good habit of saving work to a back up every day, even twice or three times a day. Now I am saving it to back up every times I finish adding a few words to Chapter Thirteen - yes, it was Chapter Thirteen!

I have also re-set auto recovery to save every 3 minutes instead of every ten.  Obviously my action happened between auto saves. so let my ill luck be a warning to others like me. Don't get complacent - save after every new piece of work!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Telly Adict

What I wonder, will replace Borgen on our Saturday night tv screens? This series did not have the punch of the earlier ones, but even so, it was enjoyable, with competent acting and adequate storylines. Everybody settled down into a happy ending, except perhaps for the buxom redhead who leaked secrets to the other political party. Kaspar simply moved on after separating from Katrina while she wallowed in recriminations and bitterness for a while. Probably typical of many breakups. Birgitte is happily settled with her Englishman, who seemed too good to be true in many ways - there when needed, happy to take a seat in the background of her life when not. I often wondered how he made his living.

The other joy of tv for me at the moment is Last Tango in Halifax. Anne Reid is a delight, Jacobi looks alternately frail and robust depending on which sweater he wears. The daughters Caroline and Gillian are so well written and cast - so different in every way, but each with an urge to reach out and confide in the other. I laughed aloud at the scene in the hotel where they went for lunch and went on to discuss a venue for Alan and Celia's Big Wedding (as opposed to the Small One). Offered champagne, they drank it, and fell about in giggles when they realised the staff thought they were planning to marry...

Then there's John and Judith - she's a librarian, and full of angst about writing a novel, which John has already done. Squabbling about women starting wars, John listens, his saturnine face the picture of defeat as Judith demands "How many women do you know who started wars? It's always men!"
"Thatcher!" John snaps, and then, gathering steam, reels off a whole list of women from Cleopatra to Elizabeth I  and beyond while Judith sulks in silence.

I must discover the writers and see what else they've done. They may even have written novels.

Monday, 16 December 2013

To edit or not to edit?

I knew it couldn't last. Our beautiful sunny days have gone, and we've got dank, dismal weather now. Though it is not particularly cold. That must be still in the pipeline.  So, time to get down to work. There's housework, of course. There always is, but I prefer to save that up and do it in huge blasts - then I can see where I've been!

Instead, let me think aloud about the current craze in self-publishing, which is that we should get our stories professionally edited before we self-publish. I wonder if that is strictly true, or is it simply another bandwagon? I sit here and think back over the freebies I've downloaded from Amazon and I have to agree that  yes, many of them would have benefitted from editorial skills. That isn't to say that it would have made the stories any better, but it would have made them more readable.

On the other hand, if English is your subject at university level, and you've read all your life; if you are happy to consult Fowler or Quirk now and then for the correct style rule - or perhaps Lynne Truss these days - do you really need it? Some of these editors charge as much as £800 or £900 for 100k manuscripts. That's a lot of dosh to pay out.

In a way it is akin to putting a new type of barrier in front of wannabee authors, few of whom can afford such fees. If you self-edit your own work five or six times over a space of months, surely you can catch the errors? Sometimes Amazon software puts a glitch in the work, too. I know I downloaded and  "proofread" one of my self-published books just to see how it came out, spotted an error and went back to my original only to find it error-free at that point. I'm not trying to claim my work is perfect, far from it. But in that instance, the error came from the software. Presumably if you paid for editing, that sort of glitch could still occur.

One aspect of having an editor work with me that appeals is having them comment on the storyline, characters, etc. Now that sort of editing may well persuade me to try it.

Friday, 13 December 2013

When a book lets you down....


Wingspan by Jeremy Hughes

"Set in America, England and Wales, Wingspan consists of two stories fifty years apart, of quest and discovery, secrets and mysteries, love and death, betrayal and fidelity.
In September 1943 an American Flying Fortress returning from a mission crashes in Wales. A farmer is first on the scene to discover that its crew of ten have all perished. When the police arrive, only nine bodies are recovered, and so the mystery of the pilot begins.
The pilot is stationed in Suffolk long enough to meet and marry Gail, and together they have a son. It is only when Gail dies just before the son’s fiftieth birthday that he feels able to search for the father he didn’t know. Discovering that his father died in Wales, the son sets out to find the crash site. It is the beginning of a physical and emotional journey which will change him fundamentally."

I have just finished reading this, and am a trifle perplexed. It is all the things the publisher Cillian Press says in the blurb. It is beautifully written. It is not onerously long and presented in good clear font. Reading was easy. But now I'm finished, I don't quite know what I've read.

It is two entwined stories, and I don't mind that. But I do mind not being able to tell, a lot of the time, which story I am reading. I spent time flicking backwards and forwards trying to discover which I I was reading, if you see what I mean.

I do mind that the two stories are told in scraps and patches, with a fifty year gap between the two. I mind that the central question, which made me pick up the book, is never answered. What happened to the missing airman? Was he ever there? Did he live on? Was he the odd figure on the skyline at the end of the book? What are all the letters from the police supposed to convey?

Perhaps it is all just two clever for me. I kept thinking I would get the hang of what it was all about, but sad to say, I did not. Maybe one day I'll try reading it again. Perhaps it will all become clear second time around.

Just to cheer myself up, here's a reminder of the beautiful Northumberland coast on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Druridge Bay

A day out today! The weather looked good, the forecast promised sunshine, and for December the temperature was high. So off we went to Druridge Bay, just south of Amble on the north-east coast. Lindisfarne was a tiny triangle of white on the horizon. One day I must go and visit the castle there.


 Today was a walk along the beach and back again while Tim ran in and out of the sea, gaining confidence as he went along. Just like a child, really - he splashed through pools of standing water, and explored every nook and cranny of the patch of rocks we discovered. All the time the sun was warm on our faces and then on our backs as we followed our footsteps back to the point in the dunes where we came down. Important to get it right as the beach is over seven miles long and a mistake could have extended our walk far more than we intended!


Driving away after the walk we drove by a farm that has converted old buildings into a Cafe and Gift Shop, so we bowled into the car park and went inside for a fruit scone and a cup of coffee. Most welcome, but we didn't dare stay long as Tim isn't too used to staying in the car on his own. Fortunately the sun was strong enough to keep the car warm for him even with the window open a crack.

All in all, a beautiful day and a lovely walk.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Cover change update

 I have now updated Victorian Beauty by changing the cover. It didn't take properly on the first attempt, so I knuckled down, read the instructions slowly instead of glancing over them, and managed it on the second attempt. I have such a bad habit of glazing over when technical terms pepper a screen - especially a screen. The printed page is not so bad, but a screen? As soon as I scroll down and the words vanish from the screen, they also vanish from my mind.

The story has not changed, but the title is now Dark Whisky Road, and the cover has changed to something much more attractive. A photograph of my own, so there are no copyright worries. I took it a couple of years ago on a trip to the Chatsworth Estate. I also took the opportunity to add a piece at the end of the book about the possibility of reviews, and listing my other titles. Threw my blog address in for good measure, and thought about including a picture of myself, but thought that might be a step too far. I didn't want to tempt the gods of Amazon Kindle.

Now I shall have to upload the new cover to the titles listed here on my blog. You did notice all my titles are listed on a separate page, didn't you? I hope so. I updated each blurb just last week. The ones I had were so stiff and formal I could hardly believe I wrote them - and yet I thought they were so good when I first uploaded them.

Talking of photographs, I won't be taking many now until the frost and snow arrive.  We still have an occasional bright day as in the pic of dh and dog in Chopwell Wood last week, but the horrendous winds of Thursday and Friday ripped the the last of the leaves off and brought down branches galore. The autumn colours have all but gone, the leaves are sodden underfoot and the trees are stark skeletons against a grey sky.




Friday, 6 December 2013

Re-Writes

I see someone has re-written The Sheik.
The Sheik RetoldThe original story, written by Edith Maude Hull in 1919, was her most popular book and became a famous film starring Rudolph Valentino. The book is still in print today, but out of copyright in the USA and Europe.

Victoria Vane has written a steamy version using the original characters and the same storyline. She has simply added the word "retold" to the title and placed the original author's name on the cover below her own. I find it amazing that this is legal.

I know that there are some well known authors  in this country preparing or actually engaged on re-writing Jane Austen's stories. Are we so devoid of imagination that we can think of nothing new, but have to plunder works that have been in print for decades? Does it not make a nonsense of copyright? Is it any better than plagiarism?

I feel sure that publishers have consulted lawyers and, like accountants slipping between the legalities, a loophole has been found that allows this to take place. Perhaps the fact that both authors are dead has something to do with it. Perhaps the person or company who holds the estate of the author has given permission and that is all that matters. But is it right? I don't think so. I hope no one buys the wretched things, but I suspect they'll sell in shiploads. And to some people, that's all that matters. Look out for re-writes of every other classic novel in the next few years.

 




Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Kindle Covers

They say you can change your book cover on any Kindle title, and I'm wondering about doing it. Sometimes a cover seems good and right for the book, but a year later it seems drab and dreary - definitely not exciting.
So how easy is it to change that cover? I'm looking into it.

When brand new books are published with different covers in different parts of the world, you have to wonder why. The answer has to be that different populations respond to different images, and since the professionals who commission the covers know what they are doing, it would be silly not to take note of how they operate. The cover I did for Victorian Beauty has not caught anyone's imagination. If I changed it, would I change both the cover and the title?

I chose the original title because I was writing about a heroine who was not deemed beautiful after the accident she suffered at the hands of a brutal husband. But it has suddenly dawned on me that no one but me knows that until they have read the book. The irony doesn't work. Why has it taken this long to realise such an obvious fact? (Because authors are too close to their work to see the thing objectively. I can hear you all saying it!)

Melanie and ... Lord Jarrow's Secret might be more intriguing as a title. Certainly it gives a better flavour of the story. And since the title isn't selling terribly well, I have nothing to lose by trying a new cover and a new title if I want to bother fiddling about with it. I could make it a feature of the book in that every so often, the cover changes. If I keep an eye on numbers, I might gain a clue as to how the cover affects sales - if at all!



 When I get this photograph to the right size and shape, it may become the new cover. At least I have no copyright worries, as it is a photograph I took myself. Are the colours more inviting? I think so, yes. Does it need the addition of a figure or does the cover stand well enough without one? Is it the title change that works better than the change of cover? Difficult decisions I need to mull over.

If you have any views, do comment and let me know what you think!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

That dratted Comma!

If you've ever been confused by when to use a comma, then read Ginger Simpson's post on 29th Novemebr at this link: http://mizging.blogspot.co.uk/  If you are English* it may or may not help, since we use the wretched things differently to Americans and that just adds to the confusion. A friend who teaches English in America gave me these 5 comma rules that rule the world

1. Use a comma after an introductory phrase or clause
2. Use a comma before and after a parenthetical phrase or clause  (Lynne Truss calls this a weak interruption in a sentence. They can usually be lifted out whole without destroying the grammar)
3.Use a comma to separate two independent clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction  (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) (If you omit the conjunction and keep the comma, this becomes the splice comma. Personally I don't care for the splice comma)
4. Use a comma to separate items in a series (but do not use one before the and at the end of the list unless you want to be guilty of using the Oxford comma.)
5 Use a comma before a quotation when an introductory phrase with a word like say or reply precedes the quotation. (I don't think I ever knew this rule)
6. DO NOT PUT a comma between two verbs or verb phrases in a compound predicate. (Evidently I sometimes do this. My excuse is that I do it in the old-fashioned, time-honoured way we learned to do when we read aloud at school or wherever. It's simply a pause for breath, or for emphasis, perhaps to heighten tension as you make your audience wait for the next bit) 

There is also the comma used before direct speech though this seems to be dying out with some writers. Either way sits happily with me, as long as it is consistent throughout the piece or novel I'm reading.

I love some of the examples of sloppy or careless use of commas:
Leonora walked on her head, a little higher than usual.
The driver escaped from the car before it sank and swam to the river-bank

But of course, you know exactly where the commas should have gone, don't you?

* I've begun using English as my descriptor since the other partners in the United Kingdom began insisting on declaring themselves Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

The mysteries of Blog stats

Does anyone understand the stats on Blogger?

I have the Clustrmap counter on my blog, which gives me the number of visitors to my blog and which country they are from - which is fascinating in itself. Russia? Alaska? Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific?  I assume they are chance encounters and dare not think I have regular visitors from those places - but it would be cool if I did!

Then I looked at the post stats on Blogger and see something called View Counts is given there. Now, I think I can understand the difference between a visit to the blog and a how many posts/pages a visitor looked at once they got to the blog. But why do the view count numbers change from day to day? Is that because Blogger adds one day's views to another day's views? In other words, it totals the view counts made against a particular blog post? If so, that is very clever and an indicator of what readers want to see on the blog, which is useful to me and all other bloggers.

But I'm not totally sure that is what is happening. If a knowlegeable person out there  can explain, do let me know!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Writing Processes Blog Tour



My thanks go to Lindsay Townsend for getting touch about this Blog Tour. I've probably given her hives as I dithered about taking part, contacting other writers and generally messing about. Like most things, once I stopped bleating and got down to it, it was easier to do than I thought. Lindsay is a very successful writer of historical novels and romances, and truly deserves your attention. Go to her website and see her fantastic list of titles, and read how she answered the blog tour questions. The link is:
http://www.lindsaytownsend.net

So, on to the questions :

What am I working on?
Depends what day it is. I always seem to be playing catch up - if it's not time for a blog post, it's time for promo. If not those, then there are crits required by my crit partners and then - there's my book. Well, books. Right now I've just finished polishing two chapters of a work in progress - it is tentatively called Blood Feud, though that may change if no blood is ever shed. It is set in north west Scotland in the eleventh century. It uses the setting and some characters from Far After Gold, one of my early books about Vikings, but  their lives have moved on ten years. Oli is now a rebellious teenager who falls in love with the wrong girl and almost begins a Viking war. With luck and a fair wind, it will be published around Christmas time. Right now my two lovelorn characters are approaching Dyflin in a Viking longship and not at all happy to be there.

I'm also submitting partials to agents for my main historical - To Capture a Queen. This is set in the 16th century, in the court of the Dowager Queen of Scotland, Mary of Guise. She rightly fears Henry of England will take her daughter to England by force if he can, but does not know that my main character is Matho Spirston, is already in Scotland and planning the attempt.

How Does my work Differ from others of its genre?
I think my books could be called cross-genre. Not because they blatantly mix science-fiction and history, but because they're a little more than romance. A reviewer once said Dark Pool was a bit gruesome for a true romance - but she loved it anyway! I like my heroines to face reality, and in historicals, that translates as danger. I'd like men and women to read my books, too. It may be a faint hope, but there you go. 

I understand that religion, superstition and that dreaded word ritual, so beloved of archaeologists, figured largely in the ancient world. But I like to give my characters a bit more freedom in their choice of actions. They can believe or not, as they choose. But like most of us today, I don't think ancient man spent days worrying about who made the world. It would be more a case of getting through the day without dying. Right up until the early nineteen hundreds, you could die from sustaining a cut finger, and it would not be a  gentle death. I studied History and English at university and I try and keep up with recent research  where it touches my stories.

Why Do I Write What I do?
Why do you eat chocolate? Because you love it. Because ancient life and times seem so much more interesting to me than modern day stories.  With all the books currently flowing out about the Second World War, this is not a good time for me. I want to read about medieval times. I can be quite partisan on certain topics, having been a staunch Richard III supporter since I was a teenager, and believing, like Dorothy Dunnett, that Thorfinn and MacBeth were the same man. Don't tell me Marie Stuart was a fool - I would ask what you would have done differently in her position!

How does your writing process work?
Life has changed recently for me. I got a puppy. A Dalmatian puppy. Now, pre-puppy, I could write all day if I chose,  tinker with blogs and crits or stay in bed until noon. Now, I have a different regime. I'm up reasonably early every day to give my growing dog long walks, whatever the weather. My writing fits around him.

I don't know where the ideas come from. Reading, I suppose. I read about MacBeth (who hasn't read about him?) and that led to The Banners of Alba, my first published book. Often its a location - The Gibside Estate and the sad tale of Mary Eleanor Bowes gave me the idea for Reluctance, and Aydon Castle made me think of Alina Carnaby in Fair Border Bride.

 These days I write straight into the computer. The first draft is always a rush to get the story line down, and I go back often - the next day, and again and again, though I know the experts say you should not. My excuse is that the story line changes, and I want to change the name, the heroine's hair colour or the month before I forget that I changed it. It isn't too onerous for the first 6 or 8 chapters, but once there are 50,000 words to go through, I admit defeat and leave it for the Second Draft. You know, the serious kind that requires so much effort it merits capital letters.

I research as I go, using Google Earth to track the location, and all the other wonderful texts available to us writers these days. It would be silly not to, when they're there at the click of a button.
Sometimes I use timelines. I have drafted out entire storylines as advised by Donald Maass and sometimes I've written stories without planning much at all. Whatever it is I do, I do it all in silence. Don't want or need music - just the pictures in my head.If my husband pushes sandwiches and coffee through the door at regular intervals, I'm happy in my own little world. Since you are reading this on my blog, I can only suggest that you click on the page detailing my book titles!

So - don't forget to visit Lindsay's blog, and next week there will be more ~

Next week, on Monday 2nd December, please visit the following authors to see their part of the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Rosemary Morris
Bio:
Historical novelist Rosemary Morris was born in 1940 in Sidcup, Kent.While working in a travel agency, she met her Indian husband who encouraged her to continue her education at Westminster College. In 1961 Rosemary and her husband, now a barrister, moved to his birthplace, Kenya, where she lived from 1961 until 1982. After an Attempted coup d'etat, she and four of her children lived in an ashram in France. Her book shelves are so crammed with historical non-fiction which she uses to research her novels that if she buys a new book she has to consider getting rid of one.
Rosemary's blog is here:
www.rosemarymorris.co.uk

Anita Davison
Bio:
Anita is the author if Royalist Rebel, the story of Elizabeth Murray, countess Dysart, who survived the English Civil War, married to keep her inheritance, and spied for her king in a land where Oliver Cromwell's army persecuted her kind. She has had two other 17th century family saga novels published and two Victorian Romances - Trencarrow Secret and Culloden Spirit from MuseItUp publishing which will be available in paperback early next year. She is now writing historical cozy mysteries and lives in Cheltenham with her extended family, and contemplating adding a dog to the chaos.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anita.davison
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnitaSDavison
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1027164.Anita_Davison

Anita's blog is here:
http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com






















Saturday, 23 November 2013

Black Hole Country

A short walk already completed and a cup of coffee by my hand and I'm ready to go at 9.30 on a Saturday morning. Amazing.
I intended to do this yesterday, but got sidetracked by attending a Writers' group meeting at Ashington, where we had a lovely lunch, a good discussion and put some good plans in place for a Writers' Retreat Day  in May 2014. The lunch was remarkable for its variety and quality - there was one unforgettable lunch where fourteen people all decided to bring a quiche!

The only trouble is that the region east of Newcastle, between Newcastle and the coast, is rather like a Black Hole/Bermuda Triangle for me in the sense that I inevitably get lost either going, or returning and sometimes both. The same thing happened when I was lucky enough to share a ride in Hazel's car. We arrived happily in very good time and full of confidence decided we didn't need the sat nav for the way home. Mistake! We got snarled up in heavy traffic coming through Gosforth, a suburb of Newcastle, and I didn't get home until almost four o'clock. There was only just time to take the dog for a swift walk, before I typed up the notes of the meeting before I forgot the detail and then the clock and  dh's stomach suggested it was time to begin preparing a meal.

Which is why I'm really pleased to have a good chunk of working space in front of me now. I left my hero/heroine wet and bedraggled in a Viking longship about to sail up the Liffey to Dublin, (called Dyflin in that period) and I want to get back to them before they catch cold.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Days gone by

I never seem to have enough time these days. My blog used to be as regular as clockwork but it is a trifle hit and miss now, though I still try to keep to three posts a week. Today I'm in the unusual situation of having time to do it and groping for subject matter. Most frustrating.

We had the first frost of autumn last night. There might have been a tentative frost earlier in October, but it was so tentative it didn't last til midday. When I took Tim down to the river bank today, the ground was frozen. It's been soft and squishy up until yesterday and while Tim romped about and got muddy, I had to keep my eyes on where I put my feet. I still slipped a few times, but didn't go down. Tim, on the other hand, hit a puddle at full speed this morning and skidded off to one side. He came back to sniff the ice, so no doubt he knows what to expect next time.

This sort of weather makes me very glad to be living in the 21st century. I tell myself a Viking hallhouse could be very cosy with the central hearth blazing and everyone wrapped up in furs to keep warm while the harper told a tale or two. But someone had to go out and find the wood or peat, drag it back and keep the fire burning night and day. Someone had to go hunting so there was something to cook and eat. Trudging through snow in leather boots without the thick, textured soles that we're so used to today would be no picnic. Maybe they packed straw and wool inside to add insulation, but there must have been many frozen toes, chilblains and even frost bite.

People complained of chilblains in the fifties, (a painful, itchy swelling on the hands and feet due to poor circulation and exposure to cold) and scorch marks on the skin over the shins from sitting too close to the fire. These things were not unusual even in the early sixties. No doubt they were common in Viking days as well. Nowadays, does anyone under forty know of chilblains? Do they remember running to the kitchen to make a hot drink before hurrying back to the one warm room in the house? A trip outside to the coalhouse to get more coal - no one wanted to do it, and it usually fell to the man of the house. Going to an icy bed was unthinkable without a hot water bottle, and three people in a bed doesn't seem such a bad idea in context of  ye olden days. Body heat times three was not to be sniffed at. Pity those who had outside loos....all these discomforts are mostly forgotten now. But it is life as it was lived in historical novels.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Off the beaten track

Here we are in November and still there are mild days when it is easy to work up a sweat walking the dog. The weather forecasters promise a dip in temperatures by next week. It will be interesting to see if they are right.  I have all my cold weather gear lined up and ready to go.

Last night we went for a meal with friends and visited High House Farm Brewery near Matfen. A microbrewery started up there in 2001 and we visited the brewery and did the tour in October. Here's the link: http://www.highhousefarmbrewery.co.uk/

It is well off the beaten track, though only half a mile as the crow flies from the Roman Wall. I wonder how many walkers would benefit from a refreshing pint if only they knew it was there? We drove the last couple of miles on single track roads between high hedges, and all around was darkness. Would it be open? Had they forgotten our booking? We were almost on the place before we saw a light beaming through the blackness. We got out of the car and almost got blown away - the buildings sit high on the ridge, very much exposed to the weather.

Inside it was warm and welcoming though we were the only party expected that night. Wooden floors and stone walls, cowhide throws over the leather sofas, wooden stairs that creaked alarmingly on every tread. That's old buildings for you. Evidently it is a very popular wedding venue - they're booked solid for next year. I ordered haddock fishcakes with rocket salad and Lemon and Thyme risotto to follow. All very tasty and I for one shall return. I think some might prefer a busier, buzzier place, but I didn't mind our party being the only four people there. Matfen Hall Chapter Library, which we visited in October when David and Helen were with us, was vast, ornate and a little daunting when we were the only guests with at least half a dozen waiters in attendance, but this room was a nice size. I wonder why it is that we keep selecting places where we are the only diners? Can it be that people in general don't eat out as much as they once did? Perhaps the recession means there's not enough spare cash around.

The picture is one I took on our two day break not so long ago. It is Kilmartin, in Argyll. Famous for its prehistoric cairns, chambers and other remains. If prehistory interests you, then here's a link to get you started:
http://www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/kilmartin-p235211

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Finding the light

Once in a while I come across a post on someone else's blog that I know I will want to re-read at some point. when I was new to blogs I thought I could always go back and re-read the original, but several times I never found what I was seeking, so now I paraphrase and jot down here the important bits I want to remember. I smiled when I read how
 http://madwomanintheforest.com/ goes through eight drafts. Aha, I thought, I like this woman. I felt even better when she said that nobody writes a publishable first draft.

She specifies two types of revision - one for the Logic of the story she is telling, and the other for Polish. Beginning with the Logic, which is so basic, she lists the scenes of each chapter on a big sheet of paper - something I do on a big spiral-bound art paper book. (I gave up water-colour painting when I started writing, so I already had the big book going spare...) Then on the left side of the paper, she lists the date and time of the action. To the right, she places an arrow to indicate if the scene ends on a positive or negative note for the main character.

It takes time, but you end up with an overview of your story. What you do then is look to see if anything is misplaced in time or emotional impact. It goes without saying that if you find any, you rectify the problem.
The next task is to look for scenes you could remove without impacting on your story. As a guide, ask yourself if the scene moves the action forward or adds to the reader's understanding of the character. If it doesn't do either, remove the scene. (If you really hate to do that, try and make changes that will better our understanding of the character or move the action forward.)

Then, draw a line through the scenes you  plan to remove.
This is good advice. Initially I ripped scenes out, yes, actually deleted them, and felt very brave and in control. Some time later I wished I had kept them in a separate file somewhere, as I could have used them, or part of them, elsewhere. It's called learning the hard way.

Now what you do is read through your list. Check for repetition of words, phrases and reiteration of the same emotional point. Check for scenes that drag, take note and later work on smartening the pace. Check that you use location to the best advantage. Would a different location work better? Check for scenes that fall into the talking heads trap and if you find any, give the characters some action.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Amazon's latest deal



Have you heard that a new deal allows independent booksellers to sell Kindles and get a 10% commission on e-book sales with that device for up to 2 years after the sale?

Called Amazon Source, this deal is only available in the US so far, but there are suspicions that it won't be long before it moves across the Atlantic.

Tim Walker of Walker bookshops wonders why Amazon have taken this step, and suggests that selling Kindle devices would simply help convert people to using Kindles.

David Dawkins manages Pages of Hackney. he won't stock the Kindle and wouldn't want his customers to think he as trading with the bad guys.

Sheila O'Reilly of Dulwich Books thinks she couldn't morally stock Kindles because the company does not pay appropriate taxes in this country.

Jane Streeter of the Bookcase thinks it was inevitable that Amazon wants to partner the independents because Kobo offered a similar service. The 10% commission offered by Amazon is said to be a little higher than Kobo's offer.

Lisa Campbell's article quotes opinions of bookshop owners that I believe operate in the south, possibly all in London - though I have not checked this to be sure. My thought is that there may be many small independents in the midlands and the north who will be so close to closure that they will clutch at this as a lifeline when and if it is offered. Perhaps for that, Amazon deserves some credit? What do you think? At the very least I have a smidgen of admiration for the company that keeps on coming up with new ideas.
Here's the link to the article:

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/uk-indies-we-wont-stock-kindle.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Amazon's Countdown Deals



Amazon have hatched a new scheme called Kindle Countdown Deals. This means books are on discount for a few days, and then gradually rise to the original price. It's an interesting strategy, and one wonders if it will work. I suppose it means checking Amazon every day to see what is on offer. Now that won't be bad for them, but it certainly could get tedious for someone like me.


I checked the Top Hundred Free titles on Amazon for a few weeks but now hardly remember to go there. It's a hitty-missy kind of exercise - certain authors go free for a day or two, and if you're lucky, you catch their book for free. There's a lot of self-published stuff there that might have benefited from a copy-editor's red pen, but every now and then there is a little nugget of gold. I discovered Ken McClure and Shirley McKay that way, and got a copy of Yan Martel's Life of Pi for 20p.


This has reminded me that it is about time I put one of my own titles up for a free day or two. It usually generates lots of interest, but I find it hard to tell if the exercise generates sales. If I do it soon, it may prompt Amazon US into sending me the next US cheque!


Sunday, 3 November 2013

Fiction Bestsellers

I've always known that authors writing school text books were on to a good thing. I've frequently tried to get dh to write the definitive text on auto engineering, to no avail. I've even quoted facts at him, such as did he know that the man who created the Mr Men series of kids books reached no 2 on the list of authors who sold the most books between 2000-2009? I added that at number 7 is the author of hundreds of study guides that have earned him a staggering £49 million. (Ah, correction - the article in the Telegraph says they study guides have taken £49 million at the tills, so maybe the author did not receive all of it.)

The chart listing the top hundred books of the decade  is equally interesting when we look at fiction. For all the sideswipes over the years at Enid Blyton's books, she is present at number 10. Even more surprising is the fact that Jamie Oliver's cook books make him second in earnings to J K Rowling and put him ahead of Dan Brown. (What is it about that rapidly expanding young man that makes him so much more successful than say James Martin or Nigel Slater? I wish I knew, for I find his "whack it in" style of dialogue irritating.)

J K, by the way, has sold 29 million books with a sales value of 215 million. I don't suppose she got all of that, but still, what she did receive would be a hefty sum. Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code was the most successful single title with 5.2 million copies sold. It is worth studying the list for the unexpected. Lyn Andrews, for example - a  shy, gentle lady I heard speak in Corbridge just last year has sold  copies that garnered £9.2 million. I bought just four authors in the list - numbers 15,70, 72 and 100.

 If you want to read Brian MacArthur's full article, here's the link:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/6866648/Bestselling-authors-of-the-decade.html


and here's the list:
Author, Voume Sold, Value
1 J K Rowling 29,084,999 £225.9m
2 Roger Hargreaves 14,163,141 £26.6m
3 Dan Brown 13,372,007 £74.1m
4 Jacqueline Wilson 12,673,148 £69.9m
5 Terry Pratchett 10,455,397 £77.2m
6 John Grisham 9,862,998 £65.9m
7 Richard Parsons 9,561,776 £49.2m
8 Danielle Steel 9,119,149 £51m
9 James Patterson 8,172,647 £53.8m
10 Enid Blyton 7,910,758 £31.2m
11 Bill Bryson 7,409,656 £61.2m
12 Patricia Cornwell 7,355,180 £49.8m
13 Jamie Oliver 7,244,620 £89.5m
14 Daisy Meadows 7,149,788 £24.1m
15 Ian Rankin 6,848,039 £44.3m
16 Julia Donaldson 6,621,594 £33.7m
17 Alexander McCall Smith 6,609,779 £40.6m
18 Francesca Simon 6,564,681 £31.6m
19 Bernard Cornwell 6,297,911 £45.5m
20 Roald Dahl 6,169,406 £33.8m
21 Martina Cole 6,021,960 £41.7m
22 Philip Pullman 5,544,376 £35.8m
23 Stephenie Meyer 5,487,313 £32m
24 Maeve Binchy 5,476,134 £37.6m
25 J R R Tolkien 5,280,406 £50.6m
26 Delia Smith 5,269,783 £58.7m
27 Stephen King 5,268,577 £38m
28 Marian Keyes 5,029,363 £31.7m
29 Jeremy Clarkson 4,913,989 £35.1m
30 Josephine Cox 4,651,166 £24m
31 Sophie Kinsella 4,528,095 £27.7m
32 Jodi Picoult 4,514,620 £24.1m
33 Terry Deary 4,495,655 £21.6m
34 Anthony Horowitz 4,304,041 £23.6m
35 Lemony Snicket 4,220,508 £23.9m
36 Andy McNab 4,123,633 £30.4m
37 Ian McEwan 4,040,887 £27.7m
38 Wilbur Smith 3,871,484 £30.1m
39 Michael Connelly 3,785,330 £23.5m
40 Sebastian Faulks 3,782,665 £27.5m
41 Kathy Reichs 3,514,087 £22.2m
42 Helen Fielding 3,473,003 £22m
43 Cecelia Ahern 3,422,899 £19.5m
44 Joanne Harris 3,392,198 £21.2m
45 William Shakespeare 3,333,670 £17.8m
46 Carol Vorderman 3,315,641 £11.2m
47 Chris Ryan 3,289,855 £21m
48 Lee Child 3,274,928 £20.2m
49 Dave Pelzer 3,217,905 £20.2m
50 R L Stine 3,096,584 £13.1m
51 Catherine Cookson 3,020,751 £16.8m
52 Dean Koontz 3,010,242 £17.5m
53 W Awdry 2,991,572 £9.9m
54 Michael Morpurgo 2,989,161 £15.1m
55 Jeffery Deaver 2,972,145 £16.9m
56 Khaled Hosseini 2,957,026 £21.1m
57 Nick Hornby 2,956,544 £19.6m
58 Ben Elton 2,907,294 £20m
59 Katie Price 2,856,697 £21.8m
60 Jill Mansell 2,798,518 £14.2m
61 Mark Haddon 2,783,600 £16.8m
62 Lucy Daniels 2,768,332 £11.2m
63 Dr Seuss 2,760,156 £14.8m
64 Tess Gerritsen 2,745,556 £14.7m
65 Tony Parsons 2,731,436 £17.3m
66 Alan Titchmarsh 2,707,834 £27.5m
67 Harlan Coben 2,672,713 £15.1m
68 Lauren Child 2,632,369 £13.4m
69 Darren Shan 2,617,959 £14.4m
70 Nigella Lawson 2,616,955 £39.2m
71 Robert C Atkins 2,591,073 £17.3m
72 Philippa Gregory 2,577,235 £17.4m
73 Jane Green 2,498,100 £14.8m
74 Clive Cussler 2,435,718 £16.5m
75 Fiona Watt 2,431,376 £14.1m
76 Cathy Kelly 2,391,540 £13.2m
77 Penny Vincenzi 2,358,041 £14.6m
78 Charles Dickens 2,341,980 £9.3m
79 Eric Hill 2,334,612 £12.1m
80 Joanna Trollope 2,333,337 £14.5m
81 Meg Cabot 2,309,844 £12.1m
82 Jackie Collins 2,295,308 £14.4m
83 Lesley Pearse 2,261,007 £12.6m
84 A A Milne 2,255,346 £14.5m
85 Paulo Coelho 2,229,564 £16.3m
86 Eric Carle 2,225,336 £12.1m
87 Louis de Bernières 2,221,481 £15.3m
88 Jack Higgins 2,207,100 £12.4m
89 Anita Shreve 2,198,899 £13.4m
90 Karin Slaughter 2,196,031 £12.6m
91 Louise Rennison 2,172,395 £11.9m
92 Sheila O’Flanagan 2,162,811 £10.8m
93 Robert Harris 2,150,818 £16m
94 Paul McKenna 2,114,476 £16.6m
95 Alice Sebold 2,106,630 £13.2m
96 Gordon Ramsay 2,094,376 £23.4m
97 Roderick Hunt 2,077,092 £7.3m
98 Frank McCourt 2,055,939 £14.9m
99 Dav Pilkey 2,051,622 £9.4m
100 Lyn Andrews 2,027,382 £9.2m

Did any names on that list surprise you? 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Artistic Crinan

I took this pic from the hotel window. Our bedroom window (third floor, front) looked out over the loch but this view from the gallery shows the lock that joins the canal to the sea. It's buzzing in the summer, when all the yachts are skipping about the west coast and putting in for a good meal at the Seafood Restaurant. The dogs and kids all wear life jackets and everybody looks healthy! some of the ships are beautiful, too.

Two days isn't long enough to do any spectacular, but it was a lovely break. We drove back through a rain storm which only abated as we drove south to England - ha ha, any moral to be gleaned from that, I wonder?

One of the advertising cards calls the hotel a Gallery with rooms....and there are pictures everywhere. The proprietor is an artist by the name of Frances MacDonald  and she and her husband Nick Ryan have been resident for 35 years. They hold artists' events, and dh is keen to return when one of them is happening. He has decided to take up painting again on the strength of what he saw in the hotel.

Everybody needs a hobby, so I'm glad he is taking it up again. Mine used to be painting, until I took up writing seriously, and then the painting gradually slid away and got tucked in a drawer. Along with writing came all those other things authors have to do these days - be social on Twitter and Facebook, keep records, keep sending out submissions, keep an eye on the market......

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Crinan Ferry and Isolation

We drove a little way to a dead-end one-track road where we could walk a couple of miles to Crinan Ferry and let Tim run off-lead. It is difficult to find places where he can run free when there's livestock about but we were lucky in out choice. The one field of cattle were safely fenced away from him, and the sheep were roaming the shore of the loch.

There is a little cluster of houses at Crinan Ferry. We guessed a couple of them would be holiday homes. because it is such an idyllic spot, I asked dh if he would like a week's holiday there. 'Not on your  life,' he replied. 'I'd be bored stupid.'
It is amazing how some people choose to live in spots so remote that other people couldn't contemplate life there. I've often thought such a life would suit me, but the closest I've ever got to it is holidaying in such places, and that isn't a true test. Now that we all have computers and chatter away online, it could be argued that nowhere is truly remote any more. I know the Western Isles were keen to take up e-communication when it first became available, and had library and school link-ups long before city dwellers really thought about it. Now we chatter with off-spring in Australia every day if we chose to do so.

We reached Crinan Ferry landing but of course there's no ferry now. It ceased operating in eighteen hundred and something, and was only a rowing boat even then. It must have been a day's walk to get to Kilmarti
n back then, a village we reached by car in twenty minutes. Perhaps half a day on horseback.

The valley in which Kilmartin sits is green and fertile, and it is ea
sy to see why prehistoric people lived there and built their temples and cairns and burial chambers. The Dunadd, they claim,  is the seat of the kings of Dal Riata. Literally translated, the Dunadd would be the fortress on the river Add. We climbed it on a previous holiday and searched for the famous footprint. We found it, but didn't think it looked like any foot print we've seen. Or put another way, it was like a lot of other odd shaped holes in rocks you find on the sea shore. But if you want to believe it was part of the coronation ritual of Dalriardan kings, I have no quarrel with you.

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=342 (a formal reference to the Dunadd)
http://lostfort.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/sunny-day-in-kilmartin-glen-dunadd-hill.html (An informal visitor record, with photographs.)

We walked into Kilmartin along the line of the chambered cairns and got drenched in a rain storm before we clambered uphill to reach the Museum and cafe. Because we had Tim, we sat in a small yurt outside the cafe and devoured chocolate cake and drank hot coffee. We had done the museum bit  on our last visit, and recommend it to anyone who visits the area. Once the rain cleared, as it does in Scotland, the sun came out and we walked back to the car and drove back to the hotel for a siesta. We needed it. We must have walked about eight or nine miles.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Adventures in Crinan

On the tow-path looking across Loch Crinan
We arrived at Crinan mid afternoon,  settled ourselves and Tim into the hotel and then went for a walk along the tow-path. This is a very pretty tow-path, with the sea (Loch Crinan) on one side and the canal on the other and hills all around. Tim showed a hair-raising inclination to jump into either the canal or over the edge of the twenty-foot drop into Loch Crinan, so we did not dare let him off the lead.

Coffee and a scone at the Coffee Shop revived us and we got there just before it closed at 5pm. A short siesta, fed Tim and then out for a swift walk before we went into the bar for dinner. Tim settled under the table and all seemed well. Then he decided to go exploring, pulled free of his collar and trotted off with me running after him, the collar and lead in my hand. I caught up with him in the Reading Room and since he wanted to play games, I rugby-tackled him as he darted by and caught him around the middle.

A waiter, a guest and the hotel proprietor all gathered around, laughing. Trouble was I couldn't let go, and I couldn't get the collar back on with one hand. The proprietor took pity on me and knelt down and talked to Tim while I got the collar back on. It seems he had a Dalmatian many years ago and Tim was bringing back happy memories. Tim meanwhile thought this was all great fun and wriggled all the harder while I heard about Breckon, who jumped ship off the west coast of Iona and swam to the beach where a young couple lay embracing, Desperate because there are no trees on that side of the island due to the wind off the Atlantic,  Breckon peed on the young couple instead.

Order was restored, we all settled down and  dinner arrived. My lemon sole was delicious and the creme brulee which followed wasn't bad either. We retired to an early bed well satisfied.
Check out more pics on http://www.crinanhotel.com/

Friday, 25 October 2013

A two day break

Drove off for a two-day break on Wednesday morning. If you want to track my journey, then head west along the A69 from Hexham and then turn north onto the A689, then the M6 which becomes the A/M74 north of the border. Swing south west of Glasgow and cross the Erskine Bridge over the Clyde (roadworks! but no delays) and then join the A82 heading north along the side of Loch Lomond. Turn left at Tarbet, onto the A83. Follow that road as it twists and turns through Arrochar and Inveraray until you get to Lochgilphead. Once there, turn onto the A816 and then onto the B841 at Cairnbaan and follow the Crinan Canal till you reach Crinan. Our hotel overlooks Loch Crinan, and I mean overlooks it.
This journey took us five hours, give or take a minute here or there. The longest stop we had was to give Tim and ourselves a chance to have a pee on the M74 - we went into the service station, natch - and to change driver as we reached the A82. Lovely drive with sunshine and autumn colours just taking over the trees and hedgerows. The two old beauties in the picture were snuggled up together in the canal basin at Crinan.

Monday, 21 October 2013

My favourite policeman

Why do I like Inspector Montalbano?
Hard to  pin down. The long promised series of four began on Saturday night on BBC 4, and did not let me down. I've been watching the Young Montalbano for the last six weeks, and while I enjoyed them, they did not have quite the same pull. It was interesting watching the friendships form, and the actress who played Livia was certainly prettier than the original. But now we have a third actress playing the character in the new series. It's odd that  the character seems to never quite gell - either that, or the original actress moved on to other work . It's a pity, because the character is Salvo's long term girlfriend, so she is important.

I like the scenery, but that's not what makes me watch it. I like the fact that it is sub-titled because then I can catch all of the plot. (So many actors mumble or talk away from the microphones today that I miss quite a bit. Maybe the sound engineers are not so well trained? Just a thought.) I like the characters. Ingrid, the very tall Swedish lady for instance, who drives like Fernando Alonso. Fazio who always looks worried. Mimi Augello, who cannot resist an attractive woman. Catarella, who mangles every message and constantly falls into Salvo's office instead of walking through the doorway like everyone else. I was happy for him when it was discovered that he was a whiz with computers.

I like the actor who plays Salvo Montalbano. He's in his early fifties, like the character written by Andrea Camilleri, and he's nicely relaxed in his well-cut Italian jackets that fit his chunky frame so well. He's somewhat bandy-legged, but that only adds to his charm. There's a warmth to him that comes over even when he shouts at Catarella for mangling messages, and the way he handles grieving widows and frightened orphans makes me blink back the tears. He's cunning, easily roused to jealousy and goes into raptures over seafood. All in all, a real character. Long may he continue to delight me. To discover more reasons for my affection, click and read this piece :
 http://www.crimetimepreview.com/2012/11/inspector-montalbano-why-its-best-show.html. 

The author did not write until he was 53, and he's now 81 and still writing, so there's hope for us all.

The photo comes from Lucca Zingaretti's Facebook Fans page.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Second Bite at the Cuckoo

Tim really doesn't like JKRowling's book. He's had another go at it, and this time he has torn the cover right across to the spine. I shall have to get the Sellotape out and do a spot repair (Ha! Excuse the pun). But happily all the words are intact.

I enjoyed the book and found it an absorbing read. I didn't guess the villain and was surprised when he/she was revealed. It's a neat set up for a series based on Strike and Robin's adventures. I wondered at the title until I reached the book's conclusion, and then all became clear - but to talk about it here would spoil the pleasure of those about to read the book, so I shall stay quiet.
Sorry Helen. It's no way to treat a gift and I've had words with Tim about this habit of pouncing on a certain lady's book. He promises to do better in future, but we all know what that night mean. I now keep all my books on the very highest shelf in my study, or in a drawer in my bedroom.

I'm off to do some research on how people tag their books. I think I'm doing it correctly but  reassurance would be nice.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Libraries, sex and soft porn



-as if they needed defending. I am posting the link here because it’s worth reading. One thing I learned – he’s English. There I was, always thinking he was American – not that I’d ever bothered to check. I haven’t ever read anything of his. Strange how these ideas float around. Perhaps I’d better find something of his and read it!


I am about halfway through JKR’s book and surprised to find I am enjoying it. Strange how reviews, verbal or writtten, even a chance remark, can influence one’s enjoyment of a book. Helen didn’t say a lot, but gave me the impression she was not impressed. She didn’t rate the ending, certainly. I won’t say any more until I finish the book. 

I returned a book to the library today with mixed feelings. It was a historical romance, and the blurb claimed the author was a best selling author, had been on the New York best seller lists. It opened most pleasantly, with a well written heroine called Temperance,* but about half-way turned into what I would call soft porn. Maybe the boundaries have changed these days, but really, what's wrong with a little discretion? I don't want to find crude words - the kind often seen scrawled on walls - in a Victorian romance. I don't want items of genitalia detailed, or long descriptions of sex - I have imagination, I have had experience and I can fill in the gaps quite well without such blunt details. I think Piatkus should check their buying policy - or at least how they market the books they import from the US.

OTOH - one woman's soft porn is probably another's exciting read though I think the readers who want soft porn would find the story itself trite. Oh, to be a publisher these days. What one must do to make money.

*PS her sister was called Silence. I should have known......