Friday, 20 November 2020

Mailchimp Woes

  It's make your mind up time. 

Mailchimp want to close the account I have not used in 23 months, which is fair enough. I got the first newsletter out successfully, but then could never figure out how to send the same format with a newer message! Call me Mailchimp challenged!

I get twinges of guilt for all those lovely people who signed up to receive and then - after the initial letter - nothing. You have my apologies, wherever you are. I really should try again before the seven days are up.

In 7 days time my new novel will be published on Amazon, so I am  looking at my hit-and-miss PR methods with a view to improving them. Facebook seems to be going down and really makes it hard to read things because of the adverts. Twitter is good  and I haven't explored any of the other things available these days. Mailchimp ought to be good for me, if only I can master it. Time to get going, perhaps?


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Mozart's balls for sale

 My mini needs an MOT, my driving licence needs renewing and its that time of year for the road tax to be renewed. I always forget, dh reminds me and then there is a frantic rush to get it all done before the deadline.

We are off to Hexham this afternoon to visit our favourite vet. Tim's ear has to be checked, and we're hoping it will be OK. This picture is any old street in Hexham. I chose it because it is pretty typical with its stone walls and trees. Very different to other towns around the world. I know it is different to America and Australia, perhaps not so different from France, Germany I cannot say as I've never been there except a Christmas trip to Munich. My memories of that are wandering the Christmas Fairs and the vast quantities of Mozart's balls for sale.

At least there has been some good news this week: Trump is gone, or will be soon and we have a vaccine against Covid -19. Remembering the thalidomide babies, I only hope it is safe to take for everyone. As for Trump, I wonder why the Americans let the outgoing president hang on for two whole months. Here, the removal van is at the door of No 10 the moment the result is known. A person can do a lot of damage in two months if he so chooses. Better to get them out, for both parties.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Reading in a pandemic


Nigel Newton, founder and chief executive of Bloomsbury, said the firm initially feared lockdown would batter the business after it shut all its shops in March.

But he says: "As we cycled through the month there became a real uptake in reading.” Sales across the group rose by 10% to £78.3m during the period.


Initially people streamed movies but later turned to books. I must admit I rummaged through I-player and I’m still enjoying watching things I first saw years ago. But I never gave up reading. I began something I had been putting off for years. I began re-reading Dunnett’s House of Niccolo series and last night I turned the last page of Scales of Gold. I can see why I was not enamoured of the series on first reading. However I will plod on with it.


Spooks makes good re-watching material. Also the Bridge, along with Downton Abbey. Last night we watched a recorded Inspector Morse that was new to both of us. Now we’ve found the original All creatures great and small. I’m keeping an eye out for Being Human…

I'm also organising all the holiday photos I've taken over the past decade. It may take some time. Once I've done the e-pics, there are the packets (so many!) of paper photos taken so long ago I can hardly remember them.  For those who like to know what they're looking at , the pic today is of Perigeaux in France.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

"Can betrayal ever save a marriage?"

 Still wallowing in happy memories of our five nights away in Central Scotland. If I book again, and I probably shall, I shall opt for the full week. It is always easier the second time, because now I know there is a hair dryer there, and where the nearest shop is, that sort of thing. The questions that can keep you awake at night. I jest, of course. 

Now deep in final edits of my new book. Silver Season, set in late Edwardian Yorkshire. Very much a family story, the difficulties of not being able to produce the required heir and what might be done about it.  Not in the medical sense, not at all! 

The tag line will be "Can betrayal ever save a marriage?"

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Time to take stock

 Ten weeks to Christmas.

I say this because it marks the turn of the year.  The days start to  get longer instead of shorter.
That always makes me hopeful. Not that we make much of Christmas itself. I've always thought of it as a religious festival, but I suspect that it is getting lost in these days of consumerism. 

It occurred to me the other day that if women stopped wearing make up, then it would make a big change in the world climate. Add in soap and shampoo and all those attendant luxuries, and that would make an even bigger difference. Check the labels, ladies, see what goes into them. Not only that, how much power is consumed in making them, packaging them and selling them. Do we really need to have our nails painted various colours? Are false eyelashes and painted on eyebrows doing much except making everyone look the same? 

It's a weird world we live in right now. Time to take stock and evaluate. Decide where we go from here.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Dodging the rain

 The only negative thing about holidays is the amount of laundry required once back home. Especially when we have rain for two days without a break. The clothes will get washed eventually, and dried, which is actually the bigger problem; but when is the big question. Still, it was a very pleasant break. We walked nearly 36 miles in 5 days which is pretty good for a pair of geriatrics like us! 

We slept very well, too. My Fitbit sleep score rose  to 82 on Friday night. It often hovers around 65 back home. But then, in the cottage there were no late night revellers going home, no traffic that we heard though the road was only 100 yards away as the crow flew. The one early morning riser who lived down the lane   managed to sneak by our cottage at 6.55am in silent mode - I only saw the lights of the vehicle flash across the ceiling through a gap in the curtains. 

Now I am slowly adapting back to normal mode. Dental appointments, blood check on Thursday, catching up on e-mails, grocery shopping and dodging the rain on dog walks.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Oh for more energy!

This is Tim finding one of the few sticks on the freshwater beach at the head of Loch Laggan. There are a few half buried tree trunks and he visits every one! The weather is pleasant for autumn, with dramatic clouds and sun - the landscape seems to change as the light changes. The trees are starting to turn glorious gold and copper and we have seen few people around the estate. Most of them have been on quad bikes, but we've stuck to walking everywhere.

We nearly made it to the Falls of Pattack yesterday, but had no map and the trails are not abundantly marked. We passed two little bue arrows (and they are so discreet, about 2 inches high) in five miles. When we stopped and turned back, we were right outside the gate we should have gone through to cover the last few yards through the woods to the falls. If we'd known, we'd have made the effort to go on. (I know, always carry a map....duh!)

Ardverekie began to garner interest in the eighties and nineties when it appeared in various film and tv productions, notably Monarch of the Glen. That was where it got my attention and I've always wanted to visit. I only wish I'd done it sooner, when I was fitter and had more energy to tackle the longer walks. As it is we walk with Tim and I take lots of photographs. And it must be most annoying as I keep saying, "Oh, look at that!"

Thursday, 8 October 2020

We've run away!

 This is our new home for a few days. We are in Scotland, on the Ardverekie estate on Loch Laggan and very much enjoying the peace. Our very comfortable cottage is hidden away among the trees though we can occasionally hear traffic on the A86. We did a fairly long walk (for us, that is) and fitbit tells me we did 17,089 steps yesterday. Right now Bill has taken Tim for a short walk as he (Tim) needs to go "outside." Once they are back, we'll all be setting out to walk by the sawmill route up to the Falls of Pattack.

What with walking, watching tennis at Roland Garros and sleeping like proverbial logs, we're doing very well. 

Thursday, 1 October 2020


"Writing backstory feels like storytelling,” says New York Times bestselling novelist Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet), “but it isn’t. It’s regurgitating facts or dolling up aspects of world-building—basically plugging in what that author already knows, hoping it will entertain and enlighten the reader. Instead it has the opposite effect. Less is more. Backstory is like creating a ‘connect-the-dots’ picture—you just need the dots. The reader will draw the lines.”

I’ve been thinking about backstory in novel-writing. So, to remind myself, here are some thoughts I've picked up on the internet.

Too much backstory in the opening pages can be a turn-off.

As we begin writing, we’re grounding ourselves in the story, exploring our characters, creating their histories as we discover who they are and what they want. These early writings are a crucial part of the process. As authors, we need to know everything that came before and why our characters act as they do. Our readers, however, do not. Answering their questions too early and too easily takes away a large part of the incentive for them to keep reading.

 A good opening sets the scene, introduces the characters, and sets the story in motion. What it never does is answer the question, “Why?” Why the characters behave and think as they do, and how they came to this point in the opening are questions that will be answered throughout the book.

Good storytelling has nothing to do with what the author wants to say, and everything to do with what the characters need to say. As authors, we don’t speak in our own voices; rather, we’re speaking for our characters.



Friday, 25 September 2020

The seasons change

Central Heating on last night! 

First time since about February.

So to cheer everyone here's a pic of a nice hot beach in Australia where they are just coming into their summer. For those already in Australia, it is forecast for 3 degrees C here tonight, and I think it was 4 last night. I now you think 14 is cold, but spare a thought for the UK!

Otherwise, life proceeds as normal. We watch the figures for disease going up and wonder if our five days in Scotland is going to happen or not. Are we heading for a general lockdown again? I hope not.

 Ever since I watch Monarch of the Glen years ago, and more recently on BBC4, I wanted to go. So I booked in January for a week in October. Hopefully, we'll still get there. Isolated cottage in the woods. No neighbours. Shouldn't be a problem. There was a re-run of A Murder is Announced with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple on tv the night before last, and lo and behold, the police inspector went to Ardverekie to interview the millionaire sister! "Whoa! He's gone to Glenbogle!" I cried. I do hope we manage to get there. In case there might be difficulties shopping for food there, I've been building up a small cache of necessaries to take with us. Lots of rice and pasta....

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

We win some

This is an experiment to see if I can upload an image and not screw up whatever text I wish to add.

I've uploaded the image first and clicked on it which allows me to place it where I chose.

To add labels, I tried typing above the line instead of below it, and it worked.

I suppose if I continued to add text, it would behave as normal. The preview looks all right.

Tim had his stitches and staples removed today, slept most of the afternoon and has tormented us for food ever since. He has had his normal quota, but is driving us mad......


Sunday, 20 September 2020

Things are changing

Recently Word 365 has changed the way it handles grammar.

 I have never been a fan of the Oxford comma, but now Word 365 bludgeons me into using it, or else I end up with a document covered in blue lines. 

I'm one of those people who like a clean ms so I give in, but really, I must investigate the Language menu and see if I can stop it. 

I think this is one of the reasons why readers say in reviews "there were typos." English and American English may be similar, but in many respects the two languages are different. If there is an alternative way to spell a word, then American English always uses a different spelling to the English version. Some grammar is different, too, but the differences are not mistakes. Microsoft Word is a great system, but it should not be changing the way I use my native language.

I wonder if MW has anything to do with the current habit of using "watching on" when they really mean "Looking on?" You watch something and you look on - that's the way it has always been and there is a subtle difference in use. As a spectator, you look on without taking part. As an observer, you watch something, usually closely and attentively.

So is another thing Word annoyingly handles in one way when there are various ways it can be used. It must be why so many people start sentences "so," and then pause and go on and the word so was never really needed at all. 

Another failed innovation in my view, is Blogger. I cannot find a way to upload a photograph with out distorting the text. I've given up trying to load a pic tonight. 


Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Getting better

 Our visit to the vet this morning went well, except that I had misunderstood the instructions on one of the drugs. Thhe instruction was 2 tablets twice a day, and I have been giving Tim one tablet twice a day. Thank goodness I got the others correct. 

However, on the whole he is looking lively and on the mend. The stitches and staples come

Add caption

out next Tuesday so its no brekkie for Tim that day. There are countless staples in a 2.5 inch wound but he leapt in and out of the mini like a showjumper today. Last night  he was allowed back  upstairs to sleep. We've been taking turns to sleep downstairs with him - we had a mattrass and a duvet!

I might get back to my pc and some promo woork soon. Working on the laptop is OK but there so much stuff I don't have on here.

Friday, 11 September 2020

When your dog is ill


 The last few days have been spent nursing my dog

 Tim after his op to remove bladder stones. He has stitches internal and external, plus staples to make the wound even more secure. At first looking after him was easy, because of the after effects of the anaesthesia, but now he is thinking he should be doing all the things he uusually does. 

Unfrtunately for him, jumping on the bed is definitely not allowed, and going upstairs is forbidden for a few days. No running, no jumping, no barking at other dogs...and four pills to take every day. 

I am so glad he is doing well. Watching you dog pee blood is alarming, but according to the vet, not unusual for a few days. In almost eight years of life, Tim has developed 12-14 stones in his bladder, and we had two emergency blockages in June when he coud not pee. Drugs to dissolve the stones did not do very much except make the darn things more rounded and smooth, so we are hoping that we'll have the next eight years without anymore drama.

Needless to say, writing and evrything else has taken a back seat, but hopefully we'll soon be back to normal.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Was Pemberley well-staffed?

How many people lived in Pemberley, Downton or Chatsworth? 

When we read  novels of  life among the nobility or watch tv and film on a similar topic, we are rarely given details of life as a servant. The great houses were the major employers of the day right up until the Industrial Revolution. A  lord, and certainly a duke, would own several properties and each would have a resident staff. Mining, tree felling, forestry and a home farm would all be done within the estate by estate workers. In the 1820s entertainment was done on a grand scale, and since guests often brought their own staff,  it is difficult to pin down the exact number of staff in a house at any one time. 

One way of obtaining a reasonable estimate is by checking lists of salaries and other payments held in archives of houses like Dunham Massey. The old rule of payment once a year had changed to twice a year by 1820. Servants were either resident at one house all year or listed as "travelling" staff, in which case they moved from house to house with the family. 

A typical number of resident servants would be twenty-one, broken down as six women ie housekeeper, housemaid, two still-room maids, a kitchen maid and a dairy maid. Of the men, only four were indoor servants ie the house steward, the porter, the brewer and usher. Outdoor servants included the  land steward, head gardener, two gamekeepers and five out-gamekeepers, one groom and a stable-boy.

The travelling indoor servants were listed as the cook, the valet. the butler. two under butlers and three footmen, first housemaid, and two lower housemaids, four laundry maids and two ladies maids. Outside there would also be the coachman, under coachman, a postilion and two grooms.

Across the whole estate, the typical number of servants might number seventy-eight. When the obnoxious school teacher in Downton accuses Lord Grantham of not knowing his kitchen maid's name, she might actually have had a point!