Saturday, 31 December 2016

Spring Cleaning

Since the internet is so quiet I took the opportunity to do some spring cleaning - 
early Spring Cleaning. It was prompted by Tim thumping a paw down on my wrist (a friendly gesture, I assure you!) which resulted in me spilling a full mug of coffee over the carpet. It was never the best carpet being only required to do duty in my study-cum-Tim's bedroom, but after twenty years of drips and drops and smudges, a mugful of coffee was the last straw. 

Off we went  to the carpet sale room and found a perfect Berber twist in shades of brown and cream - an offcut almost exactly the size we needed. Brought it home and spent the next two days ferrying books out of the study, laying the carpet and then carrying the books back into the study. When I say books, of course, I include in that files, papers, cds, files, document boxes - you name it, I've got one. The only thing we did not move was the built-in computer desk.

There was also the dust of twenty years in secluded corners that never see the light of day in ordinary circumstances, but now my little study is a haven - so neat, tidy, clean, and it looks bigger because of the lighter shade of the carpet. I am well pleased with our efforts. Don't know what Tim thinks of it now that everything is settled. He followed us everywhere as we dismantled the room and didn't know where to settle. Still, it had its upside - he was absolutely knackered by six o' clock and slept all evening. Perfect peace!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve

The wind is howling outside and grey clouds scud across the sky.
 I really would prefer to stay indoors this morning, but I think Tim is going to want his usual walk. No peace for the wicked, then.

So it is here at last. Christmas Eve. We've taken the pork joint out of the freezer and we'll collect some fresh vegetables from the local Co-op which is our closest supermarket, well within walking distance. Then I think we might hunker down until these winds have passed by. These days cold winds make my eyes tear, and I feel such a fool walking around muddy fields with tears streaming down my cheeks. 

What is it about Christmas that brings out the nostalgia? I've just finished re-reading Georgette Heyer's The Civil Contract and thoroughly enjoyed it, though I think if she was writing today she might struggle to persuade the younger half of the population to read her. She has her established fans, I know, but do new readers take to her stories?

I've begun a re-read of The Matfen Affair and in the first two chapters alone I'm astonished at how many changes I've made. Often it is just reversing the order of sentences so that it reads more gracefully, sometimes I see repetition and remove a phrase. Sometimes I'm adding in tiny details that help the picture become more visual or bolster the characterization. So I failed in my aim to get it published for Christmas, but hey! I'd rather have something really good go out a few weeks later than rush what already exists into print.

Monday, 19 December 2016

A two month marathon?

I had three paragraphs of a post written, decided to change the font - and lo and behold, the words I had written disappeared. Now I cannot remember how I began the post. It was something like "Why has Christmas changed from a couple of days to an endurance marathon lasting a couple of months?" 

The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind, but is down to people and the dear old media. Where would we be without the media telling us what to  like, what to wear, what to eat and what to spend our hard-earned cash on? Soon they'll be telling us what we believe and the danger is we'll believe them!

Everybody is "Getting ready for Christmas." The supermarkets are crowded, the roads are horribly busy, towns are jam packed and even Facebook has been reduced to adverts on things we can buy. We inflict all this on ourselves and convince ourselves we love it. "I love the bustle and excitement," people will tell you. People go into debt to "have a good Christmas" and kid themselves it is "for the children." I suspect the adults love it even more than the children because it is a break from (paid) work, a chance to indulge without feeling guilty and to admit you don't like Christmas is as good as saying you don't like chocolate. We are going to like it even more this year now that all the strikes are scheduled to take place before or over the Christmas period. If the TV channels go on strike, we will really be thrown on our own resources!

Once Christmas was a religious festival spread over two or three days. Families were nice to each other, exchanged modest presents and went to church. Now it seems to be an explosion of presents, gluttony, an alcoholic haze and a great big blow-up on EastEnders on Christmas day. I suspect Church rarely gets a look in, but would love to be surprised if the opposite were true.

I know the weather is dark and dismal, and the coloured lights in towns and cities lift the spirits. Christmas trees look pretty in the corner of the living room, but imitation trees this year can cost as much as £150 and the baubles that adorn them are expensive. Trees now have to be "dressed," and believe it or not there are people who have made a career out of dressing Christmas trees.

Gone are the home-made paper chains of the fifties and even the sixties, when parents and children actually sat down together and talked as they made them. I think my Christmas is still very much of the old-fashioned variety, and I do celebrate it, but in my own quiet way.
I'll leave it to Tim to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful Christmas.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Publishing these days



Spotted this article today and saved it here so I can pop back and re-read at my leisure. It may be that other writers missed it, too! and I'm sure they will be interested. It seems author Jane Holland has a blog called 52 ways to write a novel (which I did not know but will now follow) and back in March this year an argument about indie/self publishing sprang up there.

http://52waystowrite.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/on-self-publishing-bad-advice-and-being.html

Something I noted this morning - the Historical Novel Society has redefined the way it reviews books. Evidently there are to be no distinctions between traditionally published and self published, but in order to climb out from beneath the piles of submissions, the criteria for earning a review are to be tighter, higher or just more rigorous, depending which word you prefer. I saw this on Facebook this morning, and now - typically - I cannot find the piece! I believe it was Alison Morton who placed the article, which may make it easier to find, but if not then I'm sorry Alison.

Ten minutes later, again in typical Facebook fashion, I fell across Alison's post and hastily copied the link. Here it is:

https://historicalnovelsociety.org/our-reviews/indie-reviews/



Sunday, 11 December 2016

Bestsellers of 2016 Amazon

Amazon announced today its list of the best-selling books of 2016.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition Script topped the list in every category: Best-Selling Book overall, Best-Selling Kid & Teen Book, Most Gifted Book and Most Wished For Book. This year marks the first that a play has made Amazon’s top 20 best-selling list.
The top 20 best-selling books are:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition Script by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
3. The Whistler by John Grisham
4. The Last Mile (Amos Decker series) by David Baldacci
5. Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
6. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
7. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
8. Night School: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
9. The Black Widow: Book 16 of Gabriel Allon Series by Daniel Silva
10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid # 11: Double Down by Jeff Kinney
11. 15th Affair (Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
12. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
13. Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
14. Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne
15. The Wrong Side of Goodbye: A Harry Bosch Novel by Michael Connelly
16. The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines
17. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
18. One with You: Book 5 of A Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day
19. The Obsession by Nora Roberts
20. Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
The top 20 best-selling Kids & Teens books of 2016 overall are:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition Script by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid # 11: Double Down by Jeff Kinney
3. The Trials of Apollo, Book 1: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
5. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
6. The Last Star: The Final Book of The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition (Harry Potter, Book 2) by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay
8. The Crown (The Selection) by Kiera Cass
9. Empire of Storms: Book 5 of Throne Of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
10. Lady Midnight: Book 1 of The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare
11. Take Heart, My Child: A Mother’s Dream by Ainsley Earhardt and Kathryn Cristaldi
12. Glass Sword (Red Queen) by Victoria Aveyard
13. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
14. A Court of Mist and Fury: Book 2 of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
15. Gravity Falls: Journal 3 by Alex Hirsch and Rob Renzetti
16. Calamity (The Reckoners) by Brandon Sanderson
17. Give Please a Chance by Bill O’Reilly and James Patterson
18. Pax by Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen
19. The Thank You Book (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems
20. Broken Prince: Book 2 of The Royals Series by Erin Watt

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Six Wives

I watched Lucy Worsley's new venture last night and thought it well done in spite of the fact that I nodded off part way through Catherine of Aragon's story. ( That is more to do with me than the programme. I can't sleep at night and then nod off whenever I sit down to watch tv.)

The costumes were superb and the actress who played Catherine had me believing her and her speeches were moving. She's the best I've seen since Irene Papas played her so many years ago. It was clever to have someone walk in front of costumed Lucy and reappear as herself in modern dress. I enjoyed that little sleight of camera. Henry looked like a pouting youth straight out of the schoolroom. Yes, I know he was barely eighteen when he and Catherine married but by the time he wanted to annul the marriage he was in his thirties. Is there such a dearth of Henry types in the acting fraternity?

Loved looking at the backgrounds, the scene setting, the beds, the floors. Candlestands, even. I have it all recorded so I can watch again whenever I want a Tudor fix.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Making it big

There are few authors in the world who ever reach the dizzy heights of Forbes billionaires list, but one or two manage it.

We can all dream big, and we don't want to  be faced with questions about how to manage our money once we make it, so hearing about others who have made it can be illuminating. Some do it better than others. Some have a talent for it, and others mismanage it, but reading how one famous author has done it is illuminating.

Try reading this article by James B Stewart:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/business/in-the-chamber-of-secrets-jk-rowlings-net-worth.html?_r=0 and join those who wonder how much money J K Rowling has made and what she has done with it. If it is any of our business!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Filming Dunnett

Something I saw recently on Twitter claimed that someone is going to film the Lymond series of Dorothy Dunnett novels. I hope it is true - and I hope it is not true as well. I probably won't like their choice of actor for the hero, though I will be delighted if they choose Aidan Turner for Jerott. 

When I read a book, I have an image of the characters in my head. Call me odd if you like, but that image sticks with me through thick and thin and so often the stars the film production companies choose are so wrong compared to the image in my head. I suspect they are chosen for their "bankability" rather than their acting ability or their rightness for the part. 

Book groups never agree when they start on the right actor to play Lymond. They never have and they never will. Americans select actors the UK has never heard of, and no doubt we do the same in reverse. Very few actors are equally well known in both countries and very few of those can really act. I suppose the current popular choice would be Eddie Redmayne for the sometimes androgynous Lymond. I'll have to think about that. Will he do? Perhaps. Can he act? I think so but I've never actually seen him in anything.

On the other hand, I think Russell Crowe might do very well for Richard and I'd love Sam Neill to play Lord Wharton.