Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Looks can be deceiving

Mountains can look unappealing in poor weather, when the sky and the snow merge into one strangely blank expanse of grey.
Visibility was poor on our first day. We took our skiis on the train and ventured up to Rotenboden (unforgettably dubbed Rottenbottom by a couple of seven-year-old English children on a previous holiday), thinking that our "favourite" run would be easy enough.

The run descends to Riffelberg and is a swooping rollercoaster of a run that leads directly to the sun terrace of the Riffelberg hotel where hot chocolate awaits. The problems began right away - my skiis would not slide. Very odd. I stood on a slope, pointing down the fall line, and did not move. Dh finally admitted he'd coated the skiis with WD40 when he stowed them in the garage after our last trip.

So, there followed much swishing of skiis back and forth in the snow until the wretched WD40 was polished off. We earned strange looks from other skiers, I can tell you. Then we could ski. We set off and soon found we'd descended into mist, cloud, call it what you will. Skiing palls for me when I cannot see more than ten feet ahead of me, when the snow suddenly disappears under your skiis and you land with a thump somewhere down the hill you couldn't see.

We got down, had a hot chocolate and waited to see if the weather would clear, but if anything it got worse. In perfect agreement, we got the train down to Zermatt and headed for the leisure pool and two jacuzzis at the hotel. Call it cowardice if you like. We prefer to say there's always tomorrow.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Winter Holidays

I've just had a week's holiday without a computer and you know what that means - no blogging, no working on the story, no dipping into Facebook or Twitter and guess what - did I miss it? Not at all!

It may have had something to do with the holiday being an active one. We went skiing in Zermatt and given my current levels of fitness, plus the fact that for the ten days before we flew I'd had the most abysmal bug which kept me in bed for almost a week, seven days skiing took every ounce of energy I had. I am not as fit as I used to be, that's for sure!

We took off on the 19th with doubt in our minds. Would Geneva be snowbound or not? We landed safely and were then presented with a trek to the Inghams coach. The walk was long enough not to be recommended even when unencumbered, but with suitcases, ski boots and skis to manage, definitely a no-no situation. The coach, which was supermodern and only a third full, no doubt a reflection on the current financial climate, took us to Tasch, from which point no automobiles are allowed further up the valley to Zermatt. Trouble was, our train tickets were with the Inghams rep, who was not there to meet us! He arrived half an hour later, full of apologies, blaming miscommunication between reps. We were not impressed. When we arrived in Zermatt we had another ten minute wait for the hotel taxi, and standing around at night in sub-zero temperatures is no joke. Picture us even less pleased than before.

It was only when we got to the Park Hotel Beau-Site in Zermatt and walked into the warmth and light that we felt we could relax. We thawed out and went down to dinner. The food is always terrific there, and the Swiss wines are astonishingly good. It's only a pity they never make it out of Switzerland. They do so that the Swiss are the heaviest wine drinkers in Europe, but I don't know if that is true. Their diet is heavy in cheese and fat in all forms, but strangely, they also hold the record for the healthiest nation in Europe. Must have something to do with the altitude, and maybe the cold.

Next year, we shall book with the hotel and make out own travel arrangements.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Holiday over

You may have noticed I've been rather quiet this week and that's because I've been on holiday. I set up Blogger to show Anita's new book, and also to show my review of the title. Well, now I'm home I see that Blogger failed to publish the post I scheduled for midweek. Not only is Blogger acting up over producing photographs, but now it's getting picky over what it will and won't schedule. Let's hope it sorts itself out soon, otherwise, Other Measures will have to be considered.

We've been skiing in Zermatt, and I have lots of new pics to show. There is rather more snow in Zermatt than here, but it was quite a surprise to fly over the south coast of England and see snow all the way up to Newcastle and beyond. Not often that happens! So tomorrow I'll sort myself out after a good night's sleep and resume business as usual. Except that I'll have a spate of cooking to do, because there has been a power cut while we've been away, and some of the freezer contents are now somewhat less than frozen. Rather than refreeze or throw them out, I'll cook them first thing. Also, we must discover who has cleared our drive of snow while we've been away.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Anita's Book - Royalist Rebel

Today I am hosting Anita Seymour's introduction to her new book: Royalist Rebel . Here's what she has to say about it:

Intelligent, witty and beautiful, Elizabeth Murray wasn’t born noble; her family’s fortunes came from her Scottish father’s boyhood friendship with King Charles. As the heir to Ham House, their mansion on the Thames near Richmond, Elizabeth was always destined for greater things.

Royalist Rebel is the story of Elizabeth’s youth during the English Civil War, of a determined and passionate young woman dedicated to Ham House, the Royalist cause and the three men in her life; her father William Murray, son of a minister who rose to become King Charles’ friend and confidant, the rich baronet Lionel Tollemache, her husband of twenty years who adored her and John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Charles II’s favourite.

With William Murray at King Charles’ exiled court in Oxford, the five Murray women have to cope alone. Crippled by fines for their Royalist sympathies, and besieged by the Surrey Sequestration Committee, Elizabeth must find a wealthy, non-political husband to save herself, her sisters, and their inheritance.

Royalist Rebel by Claymore Books, an imprint of Pen and Sword, is released on 17th January 2013

For a little background on the novel, see Anita’s Book Blog

The National Trust Website of Elizabeth Murray’s former home, Ham House, at Petersham near Richmond, Surrey

Anita’s Blog

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Blue Day

The day is miserable. Misty and with snow on the ground and a weak sun trying to push through and so far, failing. My cold is hanging on, won't go away. Now, to add insult to injury, Blogger have changed the way we have to upload photos. Since I don't have pictures on my phone, I don't have a webcam, don't use Picasa web albums, etc etc, it seems I can't upload pics any more. Surely the simplest way for most people was to upload from their computer? Have Blogger forgotten this?
So the only pic I can get up here today is an old one. (I've sent feedback. Let's see if they respond.

Since nothing I do today is turning out well, it is perhaps a good thing I'm due in town for a hair cut. We've promised ourselves lunch as well. It will do us good to be out among people again, since we've been isolated for the past ten days or so, brewing our germs and bugs among ourselves instead of going out and spreading them among the unsuspecting populace. Noble, don't you think?

Usually I don't have many outside appointments to keep, but now that snow is here and heavy snow is forecast for tomorrow, wouldn't you know it - I have a date to keep on Thursday and another on Friday, both of which involve me in driving a 50 mile round trip over hilly country. It would be easy if only I were involved, but both days other people are involved, so it is not an easy decision about going or not going.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Let's have a Coffee

Coffea arabica is indigenous to Ethiopia and Sudan. People took the beans on long journeys and chewed them for both nourishment and stimulation. There may have been a fermented drink, called kahweh, which is a word Moslems use for wine but it was viewed with disfavour.
By the fifteenth century a drink made from coffee beans and an infusion of water had became known in Arabia and it spread through the Middle East and reached Turkey by 1530.

Travellers brought the drink to England. The earliest coffee-house was set up in Oxford, at the Angel Inn, in 1650, though individuals had been seen drinking coffee there as early as 1637. Two years later, London had its first coffee-house in St Michael's Alley, Cornhill, and others swiftly followed. They catered to an all-male clientele.

Coffee was expensive,and soon became liable to excise duty, which added tot he cost. A dish of coffee sold for 1d (one penny) and in 1685 powdered beans sold for 3/- per pound. (Three shillings). By 1693, the price had doubled. The coffee houses did not raise the prices, but simply watered the coffee.

The Dutch took the bean to their East Indian colonies at the end of the seventeenth century, and later it was introduced into the West Indies, some Central American states and parts of South America. The Bedford family at Woburn Abbey first started drinking coffee in the late 1670s and they were typical of other families in that their consumption gradually rose until coffee succeeded ale and beer as the breakfast drink of choice. Chocolate, of course, was also taken at breakfast at this time.

Competition arose in the Georgian era, when tea arrived on the scene, and soon became a favourite with the labouring classes. Coffee remained  the favoured drink of the gentry. British colonists took coffee with them to Virginia, where it gained popularity  after a tax was imposed on tea. Continuing immigrants from Europe kept reinforcing the coffee habit until it became the preferred drink of the country.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Orange, anyone?

Someone recommended a book called Medieval Underpants as required reading for all historical fiction authors, so I duly got hold of a copy and read it on my Kindle. Basically it is an American author advising American authors that if they wish to write about European History, they must do the research, otherwise they have UK readers in hysterics. I'm not saying she doesn't address English writers as well, but the slant of the book is more geared to Americans.  There's lots of good things to learn if you are beginning in the field, but after ten years, probably more than ten now, if I stop to think about it, learning the hard way...the only thing that had me worried was oranges.

Yes, oranges. I have a character pick one out of a bowl of pears in October in 1543. A dreadful nagging doubt seized me. I was happy enough about the pears - but decided to look up oranges in my book Food and Drink in Britain by C. Anne Wilson written about 1973.
She was most reassuring. Essentially what she says is: Strange and exotic fruits began to arrive in Britian through trade with southern Europe - oranges, lemons and pomegranates. The original home of citrus fruits was India but they travelled east through Persia. Arabs brought them to Spain. Crusaders tried them around Jaffa in 1191. The fruits began to arrive in Britain about a hundred years later.  Fifteen lemons and seven oranges plus 230 pomegranates arrived on a Spanish ship to Portsmouth in 1289 for Queen Eleanor, formerly a princess of Castile.

Those oranges were the Seville orange, the bitter type that makes marmalade. An Italian vessel brought a large consignment to the Port of London in 1420. Housewives learned to use them in cooking along with currants, prunes, figs and dates. Pine nuts, and walnuts arrived. Almonds were consumed by the royal household - 28,500 pounds of them in 1286. Poor folk ate them in pottages over the days of Christmas, but wealthy household ate them at other times. Apples and pears taken at the end of a meal were usually roasted and eaten with sugar, comfits, fennel seed or aniseed.

By the sixteenth century oranges were coming into the country regularly, both the bitter and sweet variety. Sir Francis Carew began growing them, certainly before 1562,
in Croydon. So I think I can relax and leave my single orange where it is. And then of course there's Nell Gwynne and her oranges int he next century....

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Good news for self-published authors – 15% of the bestselling books on Kindle in 2012 were self-published via Amazon Kindle. The most successful Kindle author was Nick Spalding, with Love…from Both Sides and Love…and Sleepless Nights. Sales combined to make him the best-selling author. Hodder & Stoughton offered him a six-figure contract in October.
75 traditional publishers used Kindle. Since Kindle launched its self-publishing tool, 61 authors have sold over 50,000 copies of their books, 12 have sold in excess of 100,000 with 50 authors earning in excess of £50,000 and 11 of them earning more than £100,000.
The platform offers authors 70% royalty benefits.
The fact that millions of people received Kindles for Christmas can only be good news. Kindle book sales already exceed Amazon print sales in this country and with more Kindles around, sales are expected to rise even higher.
The titles of the top ten best-selling books are listed below:

1. Love... From Both Sides by Nick Spalding

2. Only the Innocent by Rachel Abbott

3. Love... And Sleepless Nights by Nick Spalding

4. One Cold Night by Katia Lief

5. Locked In by Kerry Wilkinson

6. Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne

7. Touch by Mark Sennen

8. Taunting the Dead by Mel Sherratt

9. The Tea Planter’s Daughter by Janet MacLeod Trotter

10. Here She Lies by Katia Lief


Friday, 4 January 2013

Keeping on the right track

Since I'm fuzzy headed in the throes of a cold, I am going to cheat today and give you the wise words of Nicola Morgan, otherwise known as the Crabbit Old Bat. The link to her blog is below. Plus which these are things I need to read from time to time, to keep myself on the right track.

Ten Tips for Adults Writing to be Published:
  1. Write confidently, subjectively and with your heart; revise critically, objectively and with your head.
  2. Be in it for the long haul – real writers keep writing.
  3. Listen to the right people – people who have succeeded or who are in the business. If you want to know about publishing, don’t listen to those who have never been published.
  4. Aim to be better.
  5. Respect good writers. Don’t become bitter. Good writers will be your friends.
  6. Understand your writing, your genre, your aim, your readers. Understand them properly.
  7. Understand why publishers make their decisions – and mistakes.
  8. Understand all the rules of writing, so that you can break them with skill and intention.
  9. Support the book industry – especially bookshops and libraries. They create readers and you need readers.
  10. Read.
Any comments? Disagree with any of them? Any tips you’d add? But if you add one, you’d have to remove one, otherwise there wouldn’t be ten…

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Publishing in 2012

There are around 530,000 different books released per year in the UK and America. That’s a staggering figure and proably contributes as much as anything else to the fact that success is getting more and more difficult to define. One marker of success is winning an award, yet I read over the holidays that the Pulitzer committee of 2012 failed to agree upon a single work of fiction that deserved their prize - a first in the 35 year history of America's most prestigious literary award.

Could this reflect a lack of quality American fiction? The literary elite rejected this idea. 1992 Pulitzer fiction winner Jane Smiley declared she could not believe there wasn't a worthy title and suggested it was more a case of a committee that couldn’t agree. In the UK, the 2012 Booker judges said the UK’s premier literary prize remained resolutely committed to rewarding critical merit over accessibility. In 2011 they claimed 'readability' - much to the horror of the literary establishment – was the most important factor.

The Booker judges chose Hilary Mantel's novel Bring Up The Bodies. It is the second in a trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, which also won Mantel Author of the Year at the National Book Awards. Since debut author Madeline Miller won The Orange Prize for Fiction with a story about a prince in Ancient Greece, historical novelists might be forgiven for thinking that historical novels are back in fashion; or that the literary establishment has at last realized their worth.

Female writers generally did well in 2012. E L James's 50 Shades Of Grey won Book of the Year at the National Book Awards, and Clare Balding won Biography/Autobiography of the Year, with Miranda Hart (Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year) and Rachel Joyce winning the New Writer of the Year award.

Inevitably the rise of eBooks and the decline of print have the publishing industry contemplating its navel once more over the question of popularity of certain titles and if popularity alone should now be a mark of literary merit. The literary elite may have to accept that the internet is changing the old standards and book awards must move and change with it, otherwise they will be meaningless.

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...