Monday, 27 February 2012


Received my new cover yesterday, and while it is not representative of the pre-Regency period at all, I think it has a certain charm and I like it. The experts in the e-publishing field tell me to promote the story now, even though it won't be available until April, so here we go:

The story is set in County Durham in 1803. Frances, a rich young widow, is by the river one sunny afternoon when her dog causes a horse to shy and the unknown rider to take a tumble. She must drag him from the river....

Could he be a vagrant, or a highwayman? Disturbed in the act of robbery and escaping as fast as he could? He was certainly a strong horseman and the animal had been expensive. His clothes… She ran her eye over the long length of him, took in the riding breeches and top-boots, both of a quality far beyond the pocket of a mean highwayman. Her mouth twisted. What did she know of highwaymen? His left hand, relaxed and long-fingered against the stony ground, bore a heavy gold ring on the third finger, and as she watched, the sun raised a scarlet gleam from the embedded stone. A wedding ring?

Thoughts tumbled through her mind at amazing speed. She ought to check his head and see if the wound still bled, but to do that she must touch him. Such a small thing; yet she hesitated.
Frances! Touch him, or else call yourself a coward.
Her hand trembled in the air above him and then closed upon itself and retreated, curling into a fist against her throat. Even with him unconscious, she did not like the thought of touching him.
Marriage to Rathmere had left her with a huge dislike of physical contact. But this man, she told herself, looking down at him, offered no threat. He needed her help.
Do it. Do it now.
Taking a deep breath, she reached out before her fears caught up with her and touched his brow. Her fingers sprang back as if she encountered fire. Frances shook her head at her foolishness.
His skin was cold beneath her hesitant fingers, but a pulse beat slowly in his neck. Drat the proprieties. And be damned to her fears. If he died, she would never forgive herself.
“Wake up, you silly creature.” Growing bolder, she shook him by the shoulder. “Wake up. Speak to me. Who are you?”
Perplexed, she flopped down on the wet mud beside him. He was far too heavy to lift. She could not drag him up the slope to the meadow, even with Gyp’s assistance.
Hugging herself, rocking back and forth, she dithered. If she knew what to do, she would do it, but she had no idea what would be best.
Gyp whined, shuffled closer, stretched out her neck and licked the man’s neck with long, curious strokes.
Stimulation. Frances smiled. Of course.
She gripped the man’s shoulder. He looked uncomfortable, sprawled on his side, one cheek flat against the mud. He proved far heavier than she expected, and as soon as she let go, he flopped back again. Odd sounds and a trickle of water came from his mouth. Encouraged, she tried once more, and failed again.

“Oh for pity’s sake!”
Faced with such rude indifference, the last shreds of calm vanished. Frances got to her feet, grasped his wrist, stepped over him, and yanked. She would not give up.

She strained and heaved, and then yelped with satisfaction when he rolled over and settled on his back. Triumphant, she bent over him. He must open his eyes and start living again. He owed her that much, after all her efforts.
“Wake up, you horrid man,” she snapped, blinking hard. “I do not know why I bother. Do not lie there like a dead man! Wake up and speak to me.”

He ignored her, so she slapped him.
His eyelids fluttered.

Coming in April from MuseItUp Publishing

Friday, 24 February 2012

Rowling's new venture

There seems to be a cloud of secrecy about J K Rowling's novel for adults scheduled for publication later this year. Not a hint or a whisper about the content, not even genre. Could she be writing a romance? A historical?  A paranormal? The imagination runs away with ideas...
I suppose it's more likely to be literary fiction, or aimed in that direction. Story of how a pennyless single mother writes in secret for years and finally finds success, and a new lover, perhaps?

It's a big risk she's taking, because in some ways children are an uncritical audience. They either like it or they don't, and if they do, they'll clamour for more, more, more. But adults are a different thing altogether, especially in cases such as this. There will be those that think she has all the success and monetary reward one author ought to have, and that it isn't fair to try for more. Others will applaud her efforts for trying, even if they think the result is pretty feeble. Some will give an honest opinion of the work. No doubt there'll be the one nasty review on Amazon.

Whatever it turns out to be, it will be interesting. I suppose all the Hogwarts fans who are now young adults with salaries to splurge will buy a copy out of a mixture of curiosity, hope and loyalty. The reviewers will be sharpening their pencils. The publishing world will watch with interest. I note she has gone to a new publisher and that her relationship with Bloomsbury was "tempestuous" acording to one report I read.
Sigh. Well, I just wish I had that much clout.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Get a grip

For a brief moment this morning I sat down at my computer and wished I was back at work. At least it puts a structure on the day, enforces it even, and today seems to be one of those shilly-shally days when I'm not going to settle to doing anything much. It might be the weather. Yes, let's blame the weather. After a cold, bright weekend with sunshine all day Sunday that enticed us out, we drove over to Wallington and walked the riverside walk, which was lovely. Today, though the temperature is due to go up from -4 to 8, it is grey, damp, and miserable. I'd prefer yesterday, please.

I don't really want to be back at work. I have far too much to do without that. Maybe a cup of coffee will perk me up a bit, spark the old grey cells into action.  I tell myself I'm really lucky that dh just made me a cup of fruit tea. It's days like this that I lose hope of ever securing an agent and Twitter seems full of comments denouncing e-books as rubbish. But really, it's like printed books - there's a range, in every genre, from the very good down through  Ok to the downright boring - and to be fair, I must admit there is a segment of the e-book world that most would claim should never have seen the light of day. That, naturally, is what the nitpickers focus on. But they forget that agents and publishers have selected and printed books that simply bombed. we simply don't talk about them. I worked in libraries, and know which authors sat unloved on the shelves, and I'm sure booksellers know which titles never went through the tills.

There are faint noises to suggest that even the so-called rubbish might have a readership. For some time we've had reports of growing struggles with reading among the younger generation in the US and probably other countries as well. If those with reading difficulties read the so-called rubbish, then surely that's better than reading nothing? For those brought up in the visual age - tv, film, etc - then they could entertain themselves without bothering overmuch with reading. The habit never caught on. With the idea of reading on a phone, tablet, ipad, reader or Kindle it seems they might just find their way in, and if they want to read the simpler, wilder end of the market, then let's not get snobbish about it.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Tudor population figures

If my sums are correct, the French king was not niggardly when he sent the 30,000 crowns to Scotland in 1543. In today’s terms he sent £15 million in Scots currency, and £3 million in English currency. (But I still haven’t discovered which currency was the right one.) It was to be used as bribes to persuade Scots nobles to turn against Henry of England and cleave instead to France and the Roman Catholic church.

I’ve been searching the internet for Population figures for Europe in sixteenth century, and though the figures differ by a couple of hundred thousand in some reports, and remembering that pre 1800, most are best guesses, here is what I found:
Europe 105 million,
France 10 million,
England 4 million
and Scotland half a million.

Even today the Scots number only 5,222,200 against England’s 51,809,700. Northern Ireland comes in at 1,788,900 and Wales 2,999,3000. Amazingly, there are almost as many people of Scots descent living in the USA as there are in Scotland – four million plus, and in the current generation alone 800,000 people born in Scotland now reside in either England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

What does all this add up to? Nothing much, except that I am so easily carried away by facts and figures!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Tudor money

Had a bit of a tussle yesterday with money. Not mine, but theoretical money in the sixteenth century. I read letters from Sir Ralph Sadler in which he reported details of his time at the Scottish court to his master Henry VIII. He reported that the French had sent 30,000 crowns to the Queen Dowager of Scotland and while the question of who got the money and where it eventually went is fascinating, my problem was - how much was 30,000 crowns?
Mannlichen  slopes

If they were English crowns, then they were worth five shillings each. If they were Scottish crowns, then they were worth twenty-three shillings each. Quite a substantial difference - £7,500 or £34,500. Until 1707, the two countries had different monetary systems and they changed with each king. I can see now why lots of novelists ignore the question of money except in the roundest of round terms!

I decided that the French King would hardly bother to send three ships and an ambassador for a paltry £7,500 - and then remembered that when a groat (6d) was worth the equivalent of £10 today, even £7,500 was a considerable sum. I tried working out today's equivalent values for both sums, and gave up. I didn't believe what my calculator was telling me, and anyway, I've never been good at maths.

Perhaps I'll stick to round figures.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Kleine Scheidegg
It’s a good thing we slept well on our last night, because that’s where things started to go wrong. We were told at reception we couldn’t pay our bar bill until the next day. Hints that we were leaving at 5.45am cut no ice, so I had a swift word with the excellent restaurant manager, who promised to sort it out. In ten minutes we had a complete listing, paid up and went to bed happy.

Next morning we left our cases with our ski boots and skis and waited in the dark deserted lobby for the porter to arrive and take our cases to the station in time for the 6.05am train. At 5.55am he had not appeared, but a pleasant and efficient young girl arrived, opened up the reception and telephoned the porter while we went down to the ski room and dragged our cases out into the freezing darkness, prepared to trundle them down through the snow to the station. The porter came running up the hill (the path up to the hotel isn’t long, but performs a z to make the slope more do-able), threw open the garage doors, backed out the little cart, which is more like a motorised sledge and open to the snow and wind, and caught us up at the first bend. He caught the other couple halfway to the second bend and roared off to the station with all our luggage piled in the cart behind him. The train pulled in two minutes later and we all jumped in to be out of the cold. Phew!

At Lauterbrunnen it was off the train and haul the cases, boots and skiis across the rail lines to the waiting coach, which was already nearly full. Forced to sit separately, I slept most of the three and half hours to Geneva airport. There we encountered the most enormous queue I’ve ever seen at an airport – numerous flights forced into one line to go through customs. Not only do you have to be fit to ski, but to complete the journey!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Best day

Friday was the best day of our week’s skiing. A lot of the cloud dispersed and that made visibility so much better, but it was -15 degrees even in the sunshine. Heaven knows what it was in the shade, but I can tell you that the hairs inside my nose froze and my eyebrows stood to attention each time I skied down the slope. Thanks goodness there was no wind.
We found our way to the start gate of the Lauberhorn World Cup run, with the little ramp out of the hut where Bodie Miller’s American trainer seems to be locked inside so he can yell encouragement at bodie as he launches down the slope. Small kids of six and seven were pushing each other down it and generally playing the fool in the sunshine.

Hotel Regina in Wengen
We skied the first really wide part without trouble. When it narrowed and dived off down the side of the mountain we chickened out and opted to take the red run down to the little bridge and then turned sharp right to ski home to Wengen. On the way we passed a party of young bucks daring each other to shuss down the black run beneath the bridge on which we stood. It looked more of a gully than a ski run, and we were quite happy to be up above and looking down, for there were no escape routes. Get it wrong, and they’d be going down the mountain on their noses.
In our hotel we had a gentleman of 78 who was still skiing, and lively company in the lounge after dinner. He was travelling alone, because his "wife’s knees had gone" (no longer allowed her to ski), and I hope we’re still skiing when we’re his age. We had a few extra drinks that night, since we knew we had to be up at 5am to get the train by 6.05am and the result was we slept like logs.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Wengen, Picoult and e-books

A week ago today we decided we wouldn’t ski as the runs were still treacherous because of cloud in the valleys. Instead we went up on the train and walked back to Wengen dorf – a distance of about 10 kilometres. I enjoyed it. Much more time to look around and enjoy the pretty scenery, the pace energetic enough to keep us warm, and the route mostly a downhill drop of 2,500 feet from Kleine Scheidegg. Lots of sledges whizzing about, though none of them made up more than halfway up the hill in the picture!

Jodi Picoult, one of the best-selling female writers, happens to be in the UK promoting her latest offering. In the Sunday Times, 5/02/2012, she suggests that electronic publishing may be far from a salvation for writers as so many claim. Writers, she says, get a smaller chunk of the profit when a book is downloaded rather than selling in print format. “The difference could cut their income by as much as a third.”

I must admit my understanding was that e-book writers were offered a larger chunk of the royalties than print contracts. What do others think?

Picoult hopes writers will try and revive interest in the printed book among younger readers, and to that end has collaborated with her 16 year-old daughter in writing a book for young adults. She will be appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival on March 28th. I heard her speak at the Hexham Book Festival two years ago and enjoyed her performance. She speaks clearly, is entertaining and wonderfully professional. When her time was up she smiled, bid us all goodbye and exited smartly, leaving us all staring at the gap on the stage.

Monday, 6 February 2012


Glad to be home!

We arrived in Wengen on 28th February and stayed at the Regina, a family-run hotel of Old World Charm dating from 1894. We had a south-facing balcony but the weather was so cold we only opened the door long enough to take a photograph. With a little sunshine it would have been marvellous, but one look at the pics will tell you we could hardly see the village, let alone the surrounding mountains.

We took the Mӫnnlichen lift next morning, disappeared into thick cloud and eventually broke through into bright sunshine and blue skies at about 7000 feet. We skied the two blue runs, which proved fairly easy except that each run disappeared into the mist and for two thirds of the run we skied blind. We stopped a lot, unable to see the way ahead and sometimes not even the poles marking the left and right of the run.  When we saw someone ski by and head off into the murk as if they knew the way, we followed them!

Both runs dropped down the slope in front of the north face of the Eiger, but we couldn’t see it. Nor could we see the JungFrau. Coming back up on the chair lift, freezing in the cold dampness, we watched cloud drift across the slopes and by the time we reached the lift head, we were in so much cloud we couldn’t see more than a few feet.
Five minutes later, the cloud blew away from the peaks, and we stood in brilliant sunshine and looked out over a valley filled with mist. Weird experience; rather like skiing of the edge of the world. We went off for a hot chocolate. At least that was normal!

Taking a Risk

  Poised on the cliff edge about to take the leap! No thoughts of suicide - oh no! Or perhaps only in terms of covers for my e-books. I am a...