Friday, 15 February 2019

A few days ago I was lucky enough to be featured as a guest on Mary Anne Yarde's blog - 
and the result was so good I decided to copy and paste the whole thing here. The website is a vast one, with loads of book chatter and information. Do check it out!


Historical Fiction author, Jen Black, is talking about the inspiration behind her fabulous series — The Scottish Queen #MaryQueenofScots #HistoricalFiction @JenBlackNCL

Historical Fiction author, Jen Black, is talking about the inspiration behind her fabulous series — The Scottish Queen

Mary, Queen of Scots: "Mary in captivity,"by Nicholas Hilliard, c.1578

I always wanted to write and the stories that interested me always seem to be set in the past. Even at age eleven I was an avid Mary Queen of Scots fan and later I supported – and still do - Richard III.
I didn’t have the confidence to attempt writing until I was thirty and even then, I kept it very much a secret enterprise. It was hard work with a typewriter and Snopak!
My favourite author will always be Dorothy Dunnett, and it was reading her rather austere conception of Marie de Guise that set me researching and thinking about the character. Dunnett’s conception was a very good one, but I began to think of a softer, warmer personality and she slowly grew in my mind. Matho was a minor character in Fair Border Bride and several people told me how much they liked him and why didn’t I write about him?
So, I did. I brought the two characters together in this trilogy. The everyday facts are as close to history as I can get them for everything but the relationship between the Dowager and Matho, because Matho is entirely fictional. I hope Marie had an Englishman who helped her but I doubt it!

The SCOTTISH QUEEN trilogy is filled with action, romance, loyalty and betrayal; set against the turbulent English-Scottish wars of the 1540s, complex characters surround the infant queen of Scotland. Powerful lords fight for their own survival and Englishman Matho Spirston becomes entangled in the plots that surround the valiant Dowager Queen struggling alone to save her daughter’s crown.

Abduction of the Scots Queen
(Scottish Queen trilogy Book 1)

Encouraged by Henry VIII’s promised reward, Matho and Harry set out to abduct the infant Scots Queen and bring her to England even though Matho thinks they have as much chance of success as a "duckling chased by a fox.” Others pursue the same quest – namely Meg Douglas, King Henry's headstrong niece, who flatters Matho into helping her and at the same time snares the interest of Lord Lennox, who alternately woos her and the Dowager Queen. The adventures that follow are swift paced and full of twists and turns.

Amazon UKAmazon US

Queen's Courier
(The Scottish Queen Trilogy Book 2)

Against a background of political intrigue and Tudor violence, love is not easy to find or sustain. The Queen Dowager repudiates it, Lord Lennox balances Meg’s attributes against those of the Dowager and the lures of Henry Tudor. Matho Spirston falls for Scots lass Phoebe, the English invasion of Edinburgh brings disaster, Meg nurses her guilty secret and Lennox makes his choice.

Amazon UKAmazon US

The Queen's Letters
(The Scottish Queen Trilogy Book 3)

Grief-stricken, Matho puts his life in danger when he volunteers to deliver the Dowager Queen's letters to France. Dodging assassins, befriending teenager Jehan and saddled with the Dowager’s illegitimate, outspoken niece, danger intensifies when he sets out to unmask a powerful enemy and the hangman threatens once more. Meg achieves her dearest wish, but finds it is not all as she imagined.
Amazon UKAmazon US


From The Queen’s Letters

May 25th 1544, Dieppe
Matho landed feet first, fell onto his backside with a thud that snapped his jaws together and slid toward another drop. A voice called out nearby as he fell over the edge of the roof, dropped into something wet and smelly, and re-bounded onto the hard, cold cobblestoned yard. Pain sprang up in his shoulder as if someone had hit it with a sledgehammer. Snatching a short, swift breath he knew from the stink that he had landed on what the Aydon farmers would have called the muck heap.
The voice came closer; French phrases that meant nothing to him. Making careful movements with one hand jammed against his shoulder, he rolled to his knees. The satchel containing the Dowager’s letters hung askew, and the strap dug into his neck.
“Monsieur! Monsieur!” A brisk volley of rapid French followed. The stable lad, his torch held high, loomed up beside him.
“Help me up,” Matho croaked. His newly learned French had deserted him.
A warm hand helped him to his feet. Matho, bent like an old man and none too steady on his feet, stood in the inn yard and gazed open-mouthed at the thirty-foot drop he had survived; then the rosy glow that lit the sky above the building caught his attention. Sparks flew up against the indigo sky and the hollow roar of the flames grew louder as a portion of the roof gave way.
He half-turned, lost his balance and grabbed the lad’s arm to stop himself falling. “D’ye speak English?”
“Oui, monsieur.”
“My French is not good.” He took a deep breath to steady his heart, still going at a gallop.
“Many English arrive in Dieppe. They speak no French.” The youth’s tone was either an accusation, or dismissive; most probably both.
Matho rubbed a hand across his face. “Aye, well. There’s no call for it back home. What’s yer name?”
“Jehan Bourdain.”
“Help me get my horse, Jehan? The whole lot is going to be burning soon.” He gestured to the smoke and flames stretching high above the roof of the inn and decided against helping douse the fire. The layout of the place was unknown to him, his French had deserted him and his back pained him every time he moved a certain way. In his present condition, he would hinder more than help.
Still gripping the flaming torch, Jehan disappeared into the stable.
“Is there not a lantern you can use, lad?” Matho called, stumbling after him. “You’ll set the stable afire with that thing.” He spied a horn lantern on the window ledge, reached for it and grimaced as a pain, like a hot wire, ran through his back.
Since Jehan was busy saddling his horse, Matho lit the fat candle inside the lantern and doused the torch in a bucket of water.
“Are there other horses here?” he called, breathing in the warm, musty smell of horses, hay and oats.
Muffled by wooden partitioning, Jehan’s voice drifted back to him. “One horse only. The Scotsman took the other before the fire broke out.”
“Well, my advice would be to get yourself and the other horse well away from here before it burns down.”
“I cannot leave. I have nowhere to go.”
“Go home.”
“This is home.” Jehan led Matho’s horse, saddled and bridled, out into the yard.
“The inn belongs to your parents?”
“My parents are dead. I work here, and sleep with the horses.”
Matho grunted. There was no need to ask how the parents had died. The sweating sickness had taken half a village not far from Corbridge last winter, and Phemie’s aunt in Edinburgh much more recently. Such things were commonplace, but unlucky for the lad. “Well, get as far away from the fire as you can.”
Sparks whirled dangerously close on eddies of hot wind, and the roar of the flames grew louder. Harried figures hurled bucket after bucket of water into the building, yet the fire glow captured one window after another. A man staggered out, coughing, and sagged to his knees in the middle of the yard. Four men followed him, a bundled shape carried between them.
“Hurry, lad. Let’s be away from here. And get the other horse. We can’t leave it to burn.”
He checked his pack was tied behind the saddle, soothed his horse and limped across the yard with the tense, trembling animal nudging his back in its hurry to be away from danger. Jehan followed with a sturdy chestnut on a lead rope which he thrust toward Matho.
“I get the saddle.”
Before Matho could complain, the lad raced back into the stable and reappeared with a saddle clutched in his arms, a bridle and a large bag slung over one shoulder. Grinning, he speedily tacked up the horse. “Now we go, yes?”
A roar rent the air, and fierce light lit their faces. The horses snorted and skittered sideways.

“Christ, the roof’s fallen in.” Matho stared at the doomed inn, hardly aware that Jehan had mounted his horse. “And the straw’s alight,” he said with resignation, watching a spark land in the straw bale by the stable door. A shy, tentative flame sprang into life. “Come on, let’s get away from here.”

Jen Black

Jen lives in the lovely Tyne valley between Hexham and Newcastle in north east England, a stone’s throw from the Roman Wall and with a castle that dates from the 1100’s round the corner. Writing and photography are her main interests and walking her Dalmatian Tim twice a day keeps her fit. She has a degree in English Language & Literature and managed academic libraries for a living. Her father’s family have been traced back to the 1700’s on the Welsh and English border—a place she has never been, but her maternal grandfather worked in Skye, and there is one Scottish great-grandmother in the family tree, so if ever there’s time, perhaps there’s more to learn on that score.

Connect with Jen: WebsiteFacebookTwitter.

Posted by Mary Anne Yarde at 07:00
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Labels: #MaryQueenofScots #HistoricalFiction #Inspiration #Historical #Scotland


Jen Black12 February 2019 at 11:42

Great to finally see it up, MaryAnne!


Penny Hampson12 February 2019 at 17:18

Your books sound exciting, Jen, set as they are in such turbulent times. Will be going on my TBR list.Reply

Mark Noce13 February 2019 at 00:34

An intriguing historical figure for sure, but she scares me a little too ;)Reply

Jen Black13 February 2019 at 15:28

Let me know how you get on with them, Penny.....Scares you why, Mark?


Mary Anne Yarde13 February 2019 at 17:29

Great except, Jen and a lovely post!Reply

See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx

Friday, 8 February 2019

Change is Everywhere

In spite of the Brexit challenge, we have gone ahead and booked the Shuttle and the hotel in Abbeville to get to the mill in June. Tim has had his rabies booster and will have his blood test to ensure it has "taken" in a months time. 

There comes a time when  the only thing to do is throw the hands in the air and say "Sod it!" let's do it anyway. Who knows what will come from this political mess? We don't know what the vet in Vergt will be saying about returning Tim to England, but we will have to sort that out when we get there. From his point of view - the vet, not Tim - I cannot see much changing, except that no doubt his fee will have gone up.

 The pic is from 2005 and the mill has changed considerably since then. The large pine tree was taken down  because it was perilously large and close to the house and the west winds at storm force would have laid it right across the roof. Other trees have gone in various storms and of course, new saplings are shooting up everywhere. There is a swimming pool now instead of all the grass! Everywhere, there is change. Politics change, people change, nature changes. We can't stop it. Sometimes we can't even start it. 

Sunday, 3 February 2019

The wonderful delete button!

I still read the occasional writing blog because learning is good and I need to refresh what I know until it is totally but totally fixed in my head. This morning I found Ruth Harris's piece on deleting....] and it is well worth reading. Amusing as well as informative.

· Skillful use of the delete button will help you show instead of tell. 

· Will add to the page-turning quality of your book. 

· Will help create books readers stay up late to finish. 

She quotes Stephen King’s 10% Rule. 
From Stephen King’s On Writing:

“In the spring of my senior year at Lisbon High—1966, this would have been—I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: “Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”

“I wish I could remember who wrote that note—Algis Budrys, perhaps. Whoever it was did me a hell of a favor. I copied the formula out on a piece of shirt-cardboard and taped it to the wall beside my typewriter. Good things started to happen for me shortly thereafter.”

I think I'm going to do the same. How about you?

Saturday, 26 January 2019

The mysterious art of guest blogging

I have never “guest blogged” anywhere, but they say it is one of the best ways to promote a book. So I’ve been reading around the topic and here are some hints and tips I must remember.

Most important is to think about where your readers are likely to be? Genre is all-important. You’ll reach a lot more romance readers at “Romance University” or “Romance Divas” than general purpose blogs. Look for blogs of authors in your genre with a good reader following.

Use your protagonist’s hobbies, interests, or profession.
Location can provide opportunities. If your book is set in a particular place, reach out to travel blogs about the area of your setting. People planning holidays buy more fiction than people arguing about grammar.

The only way to tell if a blog attracts people who really might be interested in your book is to visit and read the posts. Read the comments, too. Leave comments on posts you enjoy. The best place to start querying is a blog you read regularly because you genuinely like it and have an interest in the topics it addresses.

Read the Guidelines and follow them. Write with proper paragraphing, punctuation, capitalization and spelling. Be businesslike, concise, respectful, and don’t lie. A blog query should start with a sentence explaining why you want a spot on that particular blog.

Pitches need not be elaborate. Give possible topics with a few sentences after each about your angle and why you’re qualified to write about it. Ie How to Market Books on Snapchat. I’ve boosted my sales by 25% with this method. I’ll provide a step-by-step how-to.

There’s nothing wrong if your blog has a small following. A powerful reason for guest blogging is to extend your online following. If you’ve been a guest of a big, popular writing blog like The Book Designer, Jane Friedman, Writers on the Storm, Fiction University, Romance University, etc. that’s a big plus, too.

Don’t simply offer another blogger a same material. You can offer to write on the same subject, but don’t simply offer a cut-and-paste.
If you have a time window, giveaways, contests, etc, and you want this post to be part of a blog tour, be sure to mention it.

Make sure you will be available in that time window to respond to comments.  That way you'll make connections and sell books, so if you’re not available, you’re losing sales.

The most helpful piece I read on guest blogging was by Anne R. Allen (@annerallen) January 20, 2019 and there’s a lot more than my sparse jottings on her blog for those who are interested in guest blogging.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Conflict in fiction

Snowy slopes in Banff
Conflict is defined as a struggle, often an unconscious one, as a result of opposition or simultaneous functioning of mutually exclusive impulses, desires or tendencies. 
A character may have to decide between right and wrong or  between 2 or more solutions to a problem. 

  1. attraction and prejudice (Pride and Prejudice is an example)
  2. Opposing desires
  3. Mismatches and/or uncertainty
  4. incompatible goals
  5.  It is about being in a new situation where old attitudes and habits war with and hinder the need to change.

Show conflict by showing character responding to their inner compulsions.
What is your hero's desire?
What is his fear?
In the opening chapters, introduce your hero and heroine and their conflicts, both external and internal. What stops them achieving what they want? Add a killer hook, an inventive and clever inciting incident - sparkly, witty and page turning would be good. By chapter 3  the reader should know why this couple are better together than apart. Are these two going on a journey? Is it clear to the reader? What would happen if they failed to achieve the destination? Who would care?

External conflict forces characters together, but internal conflict forces them apart.

Always start with a moment of change, preferably with dialogue. Reveal secrets and drop bombshells in the middle to keep readers turning the page. There should be a Black Moment at the end of the middle section. Conflict should build tension, show motivation, fore a choice and make the character grow.

(Notes, handwritten many years ago, found tucked into a diary. Possibly taken from category romance instructions, but still good for all that.)

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Gybford Affair ~ fast paced and exciting historical romance.

Renewing the cover for The Craigsmuir Affair prompted me to renew the cover for The Gybford Affair. Here it is on the right.

Claire Lyons recently published her review of the story, and I have added it below. Now that I've redone covers for two of my romances, I may as well think of improvements for the others!

I purchased an upgrade to Photoshop towards the end of last year, and it certainly makes doing them easier and more pleasureable. I suppose since I first puchased the software, there have been seven or eight upgrades and no doubt each upgrade made using the applications easier. Technology moves so fast in the area of digital and graphic art. If I were leaving school now and choosing a career, I think I would look for something  in this area. Conservation also appeals,  but I'm not sure if I would choose Art Conservation, or conservation of house and furniture. There are so many careers available today that were simply not possible when I left school

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Claire Lyons reviews The Gybford Affair by Jen Black

Today Claire Lyons reviews The Gybford Affair by Jen Black. The author has very kindly offered an e-book as a giveaway.  To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

The quiet life of Frances, Lady Rathmere, is disrupted forever the day Jack, 4th Marquess of Streatham, arrives from London and almost rides her down. At the same time a stranger arrives in the locality, makes a play for her young cousin and scandalous letters accusing Frances of an illicit liaison appear in the national press. Is Jack their author? Frances is convinced he is, and has no idea the trouble those letters are going to bring in their wake.

How liberating for a young woman to become a widow in the Regency era – no more need to marry, a certain financial independence and still welcome in Society. That is unless you have the sort of fortune that would make you a target for a despicable forced and violent marriage…
The Gybford Affair has a number of storylines, but the situation of a young widow is at its core. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced and exciting historical romance.  There was a good balance of drama and everyday life to give a real flavour of the period. There are plenty of characters to add moments of humour and see variety of opinions on issues of the day.
Although I felt quite confident who the main romance would be between, there is great tension as to ‘how’ these two will ever get together, and in an unusual twist marriage in itself is not the end or even the start of their story. I felt a great sense of transformation, especially of the male lead, during the book, there is a darkness that slowly lifts and it’s a very positive and happy tale despite moments of great sadness and grief. It was interesting to see the different ways the difficult topic of maternal care were discussed and experienced. It is still fascinating to me how the situation of women has changed over time, and I’m always intrigued to read about women in history and the lives they led. Although this story is focused on the wealthy in Society, their money does not prevent great some of the toughest of life’s hurdles and these are dealt with sensitively.
Of course there is a rogue who brings deceit, fear and drama to the story, and he has been created with care and subtlety. His character creates some of the more tense situations in the book and you can’t always be sure how they will end. I enjoyed the changes in pace and tension as the different threads of the story weaved together.

This book would suit those who enjoy historical romance, it’s a great romp and would be fun to read while travelling as it’s very engaging.

About the Author: 
I’m an ex-academic library manager who lives in the Tyne valley, north east England, with my husband and 6 year-old Dalmatian. I came to writing late, and stay fit (sort of) roaming about Northumberland with my dog. It is a wonderful county for history lovers (and dog walkers!). Everyone knows about the Roman Wall, Vindolanda and all their wonderful Roman finds, but it is equally amazing for castles, bastles, fortified farms and the occasional peel tower. I’ve walked and ridden over a good deal of it. The wall is barely five miles away from my home and we have met people of all nationalities walking there. I take lots of pics when I’m out and pop them on my blog. When I write I’m not out to enlighten, but to entertain and I think I’m always going to have a happy ending. I may have a few tragedies and deaths along the way, but the ending will always be upbeat.
I don’t play music as I never notice when it stops, so I can’t be listening, can I?
and on Twitter: @JENBLACKNCL

About the Reviewer

Claire has run Mrs Average Evaluates for five years now, and still writes a regular book review in a local magazine. Her passion is to share great writing and encourage wide reading for learning, pleasure and escapism. She also runs her own business, has four young children and a dog to keep her busy. You are most welcome to join her friendly FB Group, and she’s always on the lookout for Guest Posts on the website.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Show don't Tell

These days we are encouraged, as writers, to show and not tell.  I don't dislike it as a writing method; I use it myself, and I enjoy reading it. It involves finding lots of ways to "show" emotions as well as actions, and that can sometimes prove difficult. (As I was writing that sentence I thought if I exchanged "describe" for "show" what would the difference be? Ponder that one for a while!)

Showing involves investing in the feelings of the POV character: how do they feel at any given point in the story? Why do they do what they do? It also involves the POV character noticing how other people react to them, which really becomes the POV character telling what they see. See what I mean?

These thoughts were provoked by something I saw on Pinterest, but I don't think I should copy it here; instead let me give you the link, and you can seek it out yourself. I hope it will help you past those sticky moments when you simply cannot think how to describe your characters feelings.

Essentially what you will see is many lists of how to "show" emotion. I think I shall be coming back to it from time to time!

PS I decided to change the cover of The Craigsmuir Affair as I wasn't happy with the last one. It looked very Victorian, true; but not very appealing and that was borne out by the fact that not one person has bought it since I put that cover up! So here we are, with a new vibrant cover for Spring! I hope you like it!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Statistics, damned statistics


Has anyone used the free version?

I have, for as long as I've been running my blog. But lately it seems to have gone haywire. Some days the figures jogs along  and then there will be a sudden spike.  Someone in Mountain Ash, California, visits and gives me 856 page views. I don't know if I believe in this person or not, but what else can it be? A glitch in the technology? A search bot gone AWOL?

Yet last week I found another location that had racked up 500 odd views in one day, this time from a place midway between Bern and Lucerne in Switzerland. I looked it up on Google Earth and there seems to be nothing there but endless forest. I look at Clustrmap and the stats are entirely different to those on Blogger. Google analytics is different again. It is difficult to know if any of them are to be believed.

Stats are not really so important that I want to pay for installing Statcounter or one of the other systems, and I do wonder if what used to be free is now fast becoming an income stream for someone.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Hints and tips on publishing a book with KDP

This is an aid memoire for me in case I decide to do it again, but i thought others might be interested, which is why it is here on my blog. Of course, by the time I decide I want to do it again, the KDP structure might have changed….but currently, this is the link to the User Guide:

 You ought to read it before you start! 
By using the headings function on your computer you can format every chapter heading as Heading 1, and this makes it very easy for the system to produce a table of contents for you. You need the cleanest story before you commit to KDP - checked for mistakes and for basics such as the same font throughout, correct  punctuation, paragraph spacing.  Load Kindle Create to your computer from the KDP site and copy and paste your story into it. 

Be patient and wait for it to do the basic formatting. Then have a look at the style choices. There is not much in the way of instruction, but the system works quite well if you use trial and error. There are 4 options for a basic style, and once you have chosen the one you prefer, your story will be formatted in that style. It isn’t fixed in stone. You can choose again and again until you decide which is the one for you. 

You can make more decisions about font and size, dropped caps, separators (scene break symbols). It is fun to see what you can do, but eventually you will be ready to move on; once you are absolutely certain you have everything as you intended,  press the PUBLISH button and you get a version saved into your files identified by a brown circle. This is what you upload on the normal KDP site - the one you may have used before to self publish. Upload your cover separately, as you used to, and they will be matched together. This had me puzzled for a while until I understood the cover still went through separately.

Now for the paperback. Once the Kindle is complete, KDP offer to do your paperback as well. Take the offer, as it makes it easier than doing it from scratch. Not all the e-book style formats are available, but a good few are. You can still have dropped caps, but the separators revert to ***. 

Doing the content is fairly straight forward, but it is best to decide the page size before you begin. A 6”x9” paperback is popular these days. Remember the margins will dictate the number of pages in your book, so you may need to fiddle with them on your original file until you get what you want. The number of pages dictates the size of the spine (and also the cost!) when it comes to the cover, so that is important, too. My last effort had margins so wide my paperback looked like a large-print version.

You don’t need a Contents page in a paperback, but you do need page numbers. Leave the front matter pages unnumbered; make a section break on the final front matter page, do not link the sections, and then start numbering on the opening page of your story so you will have Chapter One, page 1.

Some people like to put the author name and title in headers on alternate pages, but I don’t think it is necessary, and offers more chances for things to go wrong!) I add in my other titles list, and how to contact mein either the front matter or the end pages. I contemplated adding in a cjapter of the next book, but since I don't hae one ready, I let the opportunity go this time. 

Once you are happy with the content, upload it on the KDP site. You will be told if there are spelling errors or other glitches and given the opportunity to check and OK them.

Then comes the tricky bit. You need a cover. Not just a front cover as for Kindle, but a front, back and spine too. All in the size you have chosen for your book. I used Photoshop to do mine. Download the KDP template, which looks like this 
~ in the size you have decided upon for the cover, 

It took me a while to discover that the template size is not fixed; I was required to resize it in Photoshop from 13.27” to 13.47” before it was accepted. It seemed a tiny change, but it was necesary. Ensure your cover pics reach right to the edge of the red zone. Remember your spine cover size depends on the  number of pages in your book. 

If you want to add an ISBN (purchased by you) you will need to use a barcode generator like and get the barcode e-mailed to you; transfer it to your cover and place it bottom right, very close to the spine fold. It took me some time to realise they wanted a “real” barcode; in Createspace I think I only had to input the barcode number and they added the barcode.  It is probably easier to ask them to add one for you, but I already had the (expensive) barcode and was determined to use it. 

If you are happy with your cover, save it at 300dpi in PDF format and upload it to KDP. I learned the hard way to save it in Jpeg format as well, in case alterations were needed. In my case, they were!

You might get the cover thrown back at you a few times. They will tell you where you are going wrong with it, and you must correct the original and try uploading it again. And again. It takes patience and a lot of time, but is well worth it. 

Thursday, 20 December 2018

A true heroine

Everyone knows the story of Mary Queen of Scots, but how many could cite details about her mother, Marie de Guise?





Corneille de Lyon - Portrait of Marie de Guise - 2017.88 - Indianapolis Museum of Art

James V of Scotland followed the Royal Scots tradition of marrying French brides when he persuaded Francis I to part with his sickly daughter Princess Madeleine. Unhappily she did not thrive in the Scottish climate and died within weeks of her arrival. Reluctant to part with a second daughter, Francis I offered James sound financial inducements to accept the recently widowed Marie de Guise as his second bride.
The de Guise family had only recently been elevated to the dukedom, but on the plus side Marie had proved her ability to produce sons. A cultured, intelligent woman familiar with the French Court, she was well able to fulfil the role of Queen of Scotland as intercessor, peacemaker, and mediator as well as ornament of the court and a shining model of piety. How much she missed her eldest son, who remained in France with his grandmother, is not recorded.
Her life in Scotland began in 1538 when she was 23. By 1542 she had given James two sons and by the middle of the year was expecting a third child. However, tragedy struck when the Scottish princes died with days of each other. Both parents were distraught. In November, Marie’s fifth child was born only days after the disastrous battle at Solway Moss in which the Scots were roundly defeated by the English. In Falkland Palace, James V reputedly turned his face to the wall in despair. Aged 30, he died on the 14th December, leaving the nation in sad disarray and his no doubt distraught wife alone with their new child at Linlithgow. His only surviving legitimate child, Mary, became Queen on his death.
Recovering from childbirth while in mourning for her husband, Marie, as a foreigner in a war-ravaged land, might have felt insecure enough to retreat, with her precious child, behind the walls of the strongest castle in Scotland.
The times were dangerous, and not everyone was helpful. The child’s closest relative, the Earl of Arran, wanted her to marry his son. Henry Tudor wanted her to marry the English Prince Edward and Francis I was determined that should not happen.  
Marie de Guise, as Dowager Queen of Scotland, refused to be elbowed aside; she gathered loyal supporters of the crown around her and very soon the Great Seal had been amended and documents were issued in Mary’s name. Mary Stewart’s coronation was held on 9th September the following year.
Living in Scotland for less than five years, Marie de Guise had an admirable grasp of Scottish politics and managed to safeguard herself and her daughter. Slowly and surely she built up French support and in 1547 she deemed it wise to send Mary to France where she married the heir to the French throne
Standing firm and alone, visiting her daughter only once, Marie de Guise continued to rule as Regent in Scotland. Over time Scots feeling grew against the French; they disliked being thought a subsidiary of France and deposed Marie in 1559; her death in June 1560 was followed by the death of her son-in-law, Francis II of France and by December, Mary was no longer Queen of France. Mary returned to Scottish shores in August 1561.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Self-publishing loses it s appeal

The saga of publishing a paperback copy of The Queen's Letters goes on and on.

After receiving a proof copy I have redesigned the inner content, and thought all was done. Set to Publish. Back comes an email saying I have loaded the barcode in the wrong place. So I redesign the back cover, which means rejigging the whole back, spine and front cover and carefully re-position the barcode and send it off. Now they are telling me the barcode is not there. What do they want? I can't stick a real barcode on the cover when I'm working online, now can I? It seems an impossible task.

I don't recall having this problem with Createspace. And now this morning they have decided that I need to update tax information because I have relocated from Createspace to KDP. Suddenly self-publishing loses its appeal.

Saturday, 15 December 2018


Have you ever had the feeling the year is marching on without you? Every time I look at the calendar we are closer to Christmas and I still have to get my paperback published. When I first declared it would certainly be out before Christmas, I felt that I had loads of time. Now I am starting to panic. I blame my current addiction to FindmyPast!

One of the things I have learned from using the database is that my ancestors could not remember how old they were or when they were born.  In all fairness I must add that while the dates quoted by men vary by two or sometimes three years, those quoted by ladies can vary by seven or eight years and one has to wonder if there is a little judicious annotation going on there - especially when the lady is quoted as older than her husband!

Pre-1840 there was no obligation to record any of the important milestones in life - birth, marriage, death, and many did not bother, especially if there was a fee to be paid. Lack of diaries, calendars, literacy and remoteness of some communities, especially in upper Teesdale, where many of my folk lived, would all contribute. So far I have records back to 1807 and in  one case 1756 but proving the link to newer generations is difficult. There must be a link between  and Richard and Thomas Dixon, for when Thomas died aged 85 he was living with Richard Dixon - but I do not know if that Richard was a son, gransdon or nephew. Trying to prove the link is fascinating.

The lady in the hat is my paternal grandmother: Mary Weston Wilson, born 1869.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Future of self-publishing

Major re-work on the Paperback copy of my latest : the font and margins have been reduced and now my book looks less like a Large Print edition and comes in at 317 pages instead of 410. Which means the price will be a reasonable £7.95.

So, not many days to go to Christmas. I'd better pick a date and work to getting it released instead of enjoying myself tracking my ancestors via FacemyPast. Who knew there could be so many people called Thomas Dixon in the country?

I am wondering about the future of self-publishing. Sales are the lowest they have ever been, and though people rushed to download the free Kindle version - no one seems to have read it yet. I know I am not alone with this because other witers are reporting the same facts. For me it is only worth the effort  if someone somewhere is reading what I write.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Time and my CD-player

My proof copy of The Queen's Letters arrived today from Amazon and I see I have alterations to make. The font is too big, by far, and the the margins could be smaller. That will reduce the page count somewhat, so I may need to adjust the cover when I'm done fixing the interior. Good Job I sent off for the proof.

I am on the hunt for a CD-player that will fit not too obtrusively with the double cassette deck, tuner and amplifier from my Technics mini system - which all still work splendidly. The whole system is at least 40 years old, but gives me, or rather. gave me, exactly what I wanted. Only the laser that reads the cd has given up the ghost, and there are no replacement parts to be found. I suppose lasers will still pretty new back in the earlu 80s.

This is the first time I have sat down in front of my compueter today, and it is 4.37pm! We had friends for a meal last night, drank lots of wine and slept late this morning, then walked Tim, had lunch and then off to pick up the hi fi system from the repair shop. Then a quick whiz around the MetroCentre only to discover it has no hi fi shops at all! Lintone has gone, no one else keeps it either, not Currys, Debenhams, House of Fraser - though I did note that a lot of the HoF stuff is 50% discounted because the store is closing down. Maybe time for some new towels, or duvet covers?

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Car woes

This dank, dismal weather is awful and probably accounts for a lot of winter depression. Even the dog doesn't really want to go out in it. So I spent most of today indoors, re-checking the proofs for the paperback version of The Queen's Letters and longing for the summer - hence the pic, which was taken on the cliff path outside Mullion Cove a few years ago.
That was the year our lovely bright yellow Honda 2000 Sports car conked out on the cliff at Land's End.  An electrical glitch; simply refused to switch the engine on. 6pm and everyone else leaving --- how do we get back to Mullion and our cottage? There is nothing more panicking than thinking you'll be out in the windy darkness all night - unless it is the blank refusal you get when a PC or laptop refuses to co-operate.

A hike down the cliff to the gift shop, which was locking up for the night, and a swift phone call to the local garage promised relief. A long hike back up the cliff - this is me and not my other half - and we got towed to the garage. I feel sure the garage owner was laughing at us all the time! He said he only came because he thought I sounded local! Ignominious journey indeed.

The car was taken  to the Honda dealer in town and we followed on the bus - two buses, first to Helston, then to Truro. Car repaired, they said, paid another huge bill and off we went. Next day, the same thing happened. Better half  took car apart and discovered poor electrical connection under the driver seat. Twist it one way and everything died; twist it another way, and everything woke up. Stopping for petrol was nerve-wracking because when we switched off we were never sure it would start again.
The journey home I was due to do on my own. Cornwall to Newcastle, with other half meeting a friend at Bristol and driving to France. We made plans; fill the car with petrol at Bristol, I would drop Bill at the station, where he would be picked up by friend, and I was to set off and drive up the M6 without stopping til I got home. I tell you, I was vastly relieved to roll up onto the drive at home.

Car to garage again, fault discussed, repaired, another bill paid - and two days later the same problem occurred. I was sent home on the bus, to get the mini out and drive back to Bill. When I got there, he'd got it running again, but next day he drove our beautiful yellow sports car to the Honda main dealer and said Make me an offer. We came out with a red Honda Civic!
I still miss the wonderful sound of that engine as I roared up Blaydon bank. I don't think we ever had it running flat out. Should have gone to Germany and the autobahns.