Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Reacher

We actually put our gas fire on for an hour the other night and the heating the following evening as the house felt so cold. It still does. I'm wearing four layers in July! What is the world coming to?
It is possible I feel it more today because I had a tooth removed yesterday. The actual in-the-chair procedure which finished around four o' clock wasn't so bad, but the evening was pretty dreary. In the end I took a couple of pain killers and went to bed.
I read half of a Jack Reacher novel last night and will finish it today as I'm taking life easy. This one is called Never Go Back and I picked it up from Ponteland library because I arrived at the dentists with 20 minutes to spare and walking there took my mind off the looming appointment. I don't know why I like Reacher novels, but I do. I first read one as an exercise to see how successful thriller writers do it, and got hooked on the story. Every time I read one - 61 Hours, Worth Dying For, The Affair, I gallop through to the end and then think how little attention I paid to the writing style.

But having read a few now, I can recognise a few  of his quirks. Detail is one of them, be it a description of a seedy motel or how to break someone's arm in an aeroplane toilet. The violence gets a lot of detail! If it is too gruesome, I can flick over it, but usually I don't because the victims are all baddies and somehow that makes it acceptable. Short sentences are another stylistic habit. There are a lot of short-sentence dialogues and short chapters. Cliff-hangers of varying intensity come at the end of each chapter, American life figures too, at varying levels but often the less well-off.


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Software and dog poo

My Goodreads pages were such a mess I have deleted the lot yesterday and rejoined. I suppose my pages look very blank right now, but I intend to read the instructions this time before plunging in and duplicating my earlier mistakes. I'm not intuitive about  this sort of thing; I can't look at a screen and see what I need to do - I need precise instructions. It took me ages to get to grips with Calibre - I'm not sure I've actually gripped it yet, but I can do certain things with it, like add a book and convert it from Word to MOBI or EPUB. I had help from a critique partner with that one, which helped enormously.

So this time I shall take Goodreads slowly.

We went to the beach yesterday but it was very busy with families and small children, so it was not a good place to let Tim run and run in case he scared someone by running up to them. He thinks the world is his friend, but so many people are frightened of dogs these days that we have to be very careful. I'd forgotten the schools have broken up for the summer, so the beach will have to wait until September when they're all safely back in school.

I love those winter days, so crisp and clear, when there is hardly anyone there and walking with the wind at your back is so much easier than fighting your way home against it! The waves are spectacular, too. Not so spectacular were two large dogs running over the dunes to the beach where they both crapped and then ran back up to their owners - two women deep in conversation who hadn't even noticed what their dogs had done. Needless to say they didn't "bag it and bin it" as responsible owners do. People like them get the rest of us a bad name. They pull the same trick on the park/playground area close to where we live; if I ever see it happen I point it out and they reluctantly go and remove it. There is a bin and it is emptied regularly so why are some dog owners so darned irresponsible?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Amazon royalties

There are some large numbers clocking up on my Kindle report screen since the KOLL/Pages Read thing began on 1st July. I shall have to wait until 15th August to get the true picture of what this actually means in terms of royalties paid out, but it looks intriguing. I hope I'm not disappointed! At the very least, it tells me that my books are actually being read - all but SHADOWS, which languishes with big fat zeros beside it. From this I gather that readers are not interested in stories set in rural France. Or perhaps it is because it is a contemporary story rather than a historical. Or perhaps I'm not getting news of it to the right market. Hard to know, really, but it certainly has not caught anyone's imagination, which is a pity, as I liked it.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Facebook changes

I never noticed that some people “Like” their own posts on Facebook as soon as they post them. If I had noticed I would probably have thought Why Bother? But it seems that it does matter, after all. Facebook’s interface has changed a lot lately and the most disliked changes were to the news feed and the introduction of the Ticker.

Now I must confess I hadn’t noticed a Ticker. (Sometimes a six-year-old could do better than me with Facebook.) Now I read that Facebook selects which of your friends’ posts you see showing up in your news feed. Under the new “Edge Rank” system, friends that don’t “Like” and comment on your posts usually stop seeing them altogether before too long. I had noticed people "disappearing" from my news feed, but thought they had given up on Fb and gone on to better things. In order to compensate for not showing your posts in some of your friends’ news feeds, Facebook added the Ticker – the box in the right-hand column that lists the activities of your friends as they happen. Ah, I had noticed that in a passing glance sort of way. I didn’t read it.)


Now if you “Like” a post, that action is noted in your friends’ ticker boxes, making them aware that you have posted something even if it doesn’t show up in their news feeds. So the next time you see one of your friends “Like” their own post, they probably aren’t giving themselves a pat on the back. Instead, they’re giving you an opportunity to check out a post that might never make it into your news feed. The article I read recommended that we all “Like” our own posts all the time – which probably defeats whatever intention the Fb wizards had in the first place!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A little PR

Here’s an excerpt from my new book due out on 20th July. For a long time this went under the working title of Daisy's Story, but now it has gone grown up with a proper title. It is available for review; please contact me via this blog or e-mail at jenblackNCL@gmail.com.


Adam reached out, grasped her shoulders and dropped a kiss on her forehead. Looking at him, she could think of nothing to say; nor could she break the spell with movement. He stood so close she was aware of his warmth and the faint tang of shaving soap. His gaze held her still. She forgot to breathe.
Slowly, without haste, he set his lips to hers.
His mouth was cool and surprisingly gentle. Aware of a pulse thudding in her throat, she did not move and made no sound as his lips moulded and teased hers. Through almost closed eyes she observed his lashes, so dark and long. His head tilted. His mouth claimed more of her. She sank deeper into the kiss.
Adam pulled back with a groan of distress. ‘Oh God, I’m sorry, Daisy. That was unforgivable….’ One hand flailed the air in a gesture she interpreted as distress. ‘I should not have….’ He turned away, palms clasped and held close to his mouth. ‘Please forgive me.’
At first Daisy could not speak. The separation was too sudden. Her fingertips went to her warm lips. What had displeased him? Had she not reciprocated in the correct way? ‘Please do not spoil it,’ she said, her voice wavering. ‘I expect I shall treasure it as my first grown-up kiss.’
‘I doubt it,’ he said dryly, staring at her hungrily.
She ought to be shocked, but felt nothing of the sort. Instead an odd sense of unsuspected power trickled through her veins. Now she knew what a kiss could be and wished it had gone on longer. Obviously he had done it against his better judgement and that of itself was exciting. If it had happened once, she could make it happen again.
She saw how deeply he frowned and wondered at it. ‘Do not worry. I shall not tell anyone. The kiss shall be my secret.’
‘That is hardly the point, is it? I should never have allowed myself to kiss you.’
She shrugged. ‘But you did. And I enjoyed it.’ She knew she should not make such an admission, but wanted to whirl and dance around the room in sheer happiness.
His mouth flattened in displeasure. ‘Why is it that with you….’
She allowed a pause to develop and then said, ‘Go on.’
He shook his head. ‘I should go,’ he said stiffly. ‘You were right. I should not have brought you in here. Will you excuse me?’
‘No,’ she said calmly, tempted to laugh at his alarmed expression. For once, Daisy felt older than her years and in control. It was a heady feeling. Remembering her conversation with Vicky in the Long Gallery at Clennell, she spoke softly. ‘I can only think you are wary of women because one of my sex has treated you badly. If that is the case, I shall let the subject go as it is none of my business.’
His head went back as if she had slapped him.
He glared at her. Daisy licked suddenly dry lips. How could she have been so crass as to mention his past history? Anxious to get the conversation back on mundane matters, she said ‘You brought me here to talk of theft. Do you think, as I do, that Maitland has taken the money as well as a painting?’


The CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR, published 20th July on Amazon kindle.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Back Home

Safe home at last. A smooth journey until we reached Abbeville and went into the IBIS hotel to take up the room we'd booked in January. They tried to dislodge us to another hotel ten miles away in the opposite direction to the A16 and Calais because they had accepted two coachloads of 30 that day. We were not pleased and stood our ground, and eventually a room was "discovered." I think it was the one they saved for disabled people because it was small, but very well appointed with a wet room instead of a shower and all the requirements for a wheelchair. We left at 6.10 am and were back in England a couple of hours later with no disturbance at Calais. We whizzed straight through but had loads of sympathy for the truck drivers stacked up in long lanes at the roadside. We also saw a group of black silhouettes harassing the drivers and thought how menacing they looked.

In England we again had no stops, but the roads outside the terminal were heavily congested with trucks stacked up for miles, both moving and stationary - all trying to get to France. As far back as Ashford the traffic was stationary or slow moving with police controlling access. We thanked our luck that we were not attempting to go to France that day.

Tim was very well behaved both coming and going. He saw the vet in France without a qualm and was passed as all clear. The charge was 49 euros, which I think DH said worked out at about £27. Tim must have remembered last year, for he seemed to recognise the mill when we turned into the long drive, and he certainly knew when he was with a mile or two of home!

In two days we've moved from 37 degrees C to 17 degrees C and it feels cold here! I stood in my kitchen last night and wondered where I kept everything. Knives? Forks? Where were they? Pans? I was so attuned to the kitchen at the mill that it took a real thought process to recall where things were. I woke up wondering why I was on the wrong side of the bed, and then remembered: in France I sleep on the left, in England I sleep on the right. A bit like the driving, really. In reverse, of course, in case you are wondering.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Round up time

Oh we had a bit of a scare yesterday. Now if any of you are farming stock, remember not to laugh at this.
In the heat of the afternoon it has become my habit to take a nap. Sometimes it is inadvertent, as in falling asleep over the computer because I'm up at six to walk Tim while it is cool, sometimes I do actually take myself to the bedroom and lie down. It is cool there on the west side of the house, and as this terrible heat continues, that is welcome. I was woken yesterday to a crash of the door, Tim barking hysterically and DH saying ‘We’ve got a problem. The cows are in the garden and Tim's setting them off,’ before he dashed off again. 

So I go and look. Sure enough, there are two very large beef cattle wandering only yards from the house and Tim is beside me at the window bouncing on his hind legs and barking insults at them. (He came inside when called, which is a good thing.) 

H’mm. Unused as we are to dealing with cattle, especially very large ones with horns, I considered that they could wander around the corner and up onto the bolly and into the house. Or fall into the swimming pool and damage both it and themselves They came within ten feet of the bolly and then got interested in some long grass growing by the head of the pound and stayed there, eating. Occasionally casting us an evil look.

We were virtually trapped inside. I suppose we could have legged it in the opposite direction, but where would we have gone? We did not dare let Tim out while they were about, for the mother might have decided to protect her young bullock, or ….anyway, we kept Tim inside and phone Tom, who lives not far away. He knew the farmer to whom the cows belong and volunteered to phone him. 


DH suspected the farmer would arrive with a tractor and trailer to take them away. I imagined two men and cattle dogs. DH whizzed down the drive on the little bike and unhooked the chain across the drive for him. He hadn’t got back to the house when  a small Renault van came, slowed and bounced across the field to park in the shade of a walnut tree. Out got one man in tee shirt and short shorts, very tanned, very dark, a veritable Rafael Nadal lookalike but ten years older. Bonjours all round and big smiles – ours of relief to see him, naturally. I had stayed on the upstairs balcony with Tim and DH went over to greet the farmer, who raised his cap to me as gentlemen used to do in England and old gentlemen still do. 

DH offered him a stick, I think and the farmer laughed and said Non. Off he went, all alone towards the end of the lake where the cattle were eating. We hung out of the window, watching his careful approach, retreat, approach and within five or ten minutes he got first the bullock and then the cow down into the stream. From there he drove them back up the river and into their own field. There was much laughter and relief when he came back to his van and promised to repair the fence. He was as good as his word, too. Twenty minutes later we heard the tap tap tap of a hammer and saw him making good the gap where the cows had simply wandered down the stream and onto the mill land – from where there was open access to the asparagus field and the road and anywhere they chose to roam.

Friday, 3 July 2015

War is declared

The mice are back. Last night I saw one run across in front of the fireplace so fast that DH missed it, and said I was seeing things because earlier in the day I walked into the upstairs bathroom and a dark brown mouse rushed out and vanished down the stairs. He turned sharp left and disappeared, which is odd because the stairs go down to the mill room there and there’s a drop of ten or twelve feet. A case of the disappearing mouse. Tim was on the landing and I don’t think he even saw it. Well, this morning DH came out onto the balcony to tell me he had just seen a mouse climbing up the tv wire that goes halfway up the wall, then disappears through the wall and on up to the roof. An acrobatic mouse, obviously, who may be seeking his family - all executed by DH. Total extinguished mice equals seven right now. DH is swearing there’ll be an eighth before too long.

Temperatures continue at 35 or 36 degrees with only occasional blast of breeze. We continue to melt.

Chapelle at Lapeyrouse.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Stormy times

After days of 35 and 38 degrees we woke at 4.45am to thunder and lightning which rolled around for an hour gave a couple of monster cracks which sent Tim scuttling out of his basket and into my arms - and put the electricity out. That meant dh had his trek downstairs to flip the switch again. Those last two cracks were the end of it but we have half the sky dark and grey and the other bright blue. Odd. Do you remember I sent a sock up into a tree and it stuck there? Well, the wind has brought the sock down to ground again in the last half hour. So we don't know if we're going to get a thunderstorm or not - so far there has been no rain - also very odd.

The picture was an early morning shot a couple of days ago when the sun was rising and lifting the mist off the lake.