Friday, 29 January 2016


Beowulf the current tv show was a surprise to me.
I looked forward to watching it not least because it has been shot in the north of England. Eastgate in Weardale - also known as Heorot - is no more than thirty miles from where I live. The landscapes shown on screen are fairly typical of my area.

Unhappily I wasn't very taken with the production. The sets are fabulous, if a trifle overdone. The mead hall would have taken a team of carpenters years and the amount of gold decoration is way over the top. I was puzzled by the number of coloured actors, puzzled by a thane being a woman, puzzled that the blacksmith was a frail looking woman, by the amount of fantasy creatures hanging about and so it went on. Slowly it began to dawn on me that this Beowulf is not a retelling of the Beowulf poem. It would have been better to have named it something else and removed all references to the original.

As a fantasy it probably works well, but I have to say I'm not enamoured of the actors or the story line. All told it isn't for me. But then I'm one of the few people who got bored a third of the way through Game of Thrones Vol 1 and midway in the Tolkien saga. That sort of Fantasy is not my thing though I'm happy to read Time Slip novels, which may be considered another kind of fantasy.

Monday, 25 January 2016

It comes to us all

I'm not a reader of magazines except when I go to my hairdresser, who always has a stash of Hello and OK pus the more upmarket Country Living, Vogue and Tatler types. This means that every six or seen weeks, I get to sit and scan the glossy pictures, though I rarely read the text - usually because my contacts are fine for distance but not too clever for small type a foot from my face. Anyway, I digress. Over the last decade it has slowly become obvious to me that more and more OK and Hello consider as celebrities people who are totally unknown to me. At first it was one person, then two, now it is more than 60 per cent unrecognised faces smiling up at me. It's a bit like Pointless and the pop music questions - I didn't know so many groups existed - it's rare to hear of one I recognise!

Should I be worried? I don't think so. The featured people all have a certain plastic look about them, in much the same way that American actresses all have a similar look, or the Italian beauties who feature in The Montalbano - young and old - series sometimes look as if they've come from the same extended family - every one has huge brown eyes, long, curling dark locks and voluptuous figures.

The photographs I see in the magazines these days are nearly always one of two types - either dyed blondes with untidy hair, who look as if they've just got out of bed and hit the streets without benefit of a shower, or blondes with perfect "American" hair - big, bouncy and curling over their shoulders. The latter young ladies all lounge provocatively on their expensive sofas or pose in a glamorous dress, one high-heeled foot carefully posed in front of the other to give the required shape and length of leg. Their lips look as if they would come off and never return if any man dared to kiss them.

I smile, and flick the pages, looking for someone I recognise. The young celebrities featured in these magazines don't tally with my concept of equality in today's world, somehow. Nor do their homes fulfil my nosiness about how other people live, because they are so extreme with their chandeliers and swimming pools. I prefer watching Escape to the Country where the houses are more like homes than film sets. What they are bringing home to me is the realisation that the generation gap has well and truly hit. Now I know how my parents felt when we modern young things did and said things they did not understand. It comes to us all - eventually, even the svelte young things in Hello and OK!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

For my own safety's sake.

I heard on the news this morning that certain non-white celebrities are boycotting some awards ceremony because only white people have won an award. I also heard that a heterosexual couple don't want to get married but want to have a civil partnership instead.

These may seem trivial and unrelated, but they are an example of the things I hear every day recently where a minority group doesn't think it should accept the majority decision that has been made.
Is democracy a thing of the past?

It seems that minorities who cannot accept the status quo now take to the media and complain until they get what they want. The media have to preserve their own jobs and take up every complaint, however mad, with glee. It doesn't seem to matter that many of the said stories are wacky, way out, unfair and plain undemocratic. (In  my view, naturally.  But everyone else these days airs their views, so I thought I'd air mine.) If this sort of thing goes on, soon every known rule in the land will have been broken, overturned and done away with in favour of anything goes.

In which case, I remember the words put into Thomas More's mouth in A man for all Seasons:

MORE And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
ROPER So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
MORE Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on ROPER) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you-where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast-man's laws, not God's-and if you cut them down-and you're just the man to do it-d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Friday, 15 January 2016

The World's Top-Earning Authors 2015

As usual, James Patterson leads the highest-paid authors ranking with an estimated $89 million in 12 months thanks to his huge output. Patterson churns out some 16 books a year with the help of co-authors. Though best-known for adult crime thrillers Patterson also boasts more New York Times best sellers for children than any other living author.

John Green earned $26 million and Veronica Roth $25 million; they rank second and third respectively.

Danielle Steel came in fourth, with Jeff Kinney, who banked an estimated $23 million thanks his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series at fifth. Books for Young Adults seem to be the most popular thing.

Here are some other notable names with their earnings, all in dollars since the source for this is the New York Times:

Janet Evanovich $21 million

Stephen King $19 million

J.K. Rowling has recently donned an invisibility cloak of her own, writing crime fiction under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith $19 million

Dan Brown raked in $13 million.

Suzanne Collins Hunger Games’ and “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn made $13 million each

Nora Roberts banked $18 million thanks mostly to a backlist of more than 220 titles.

E.L. James $12 million haul from the sales of her kinky “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy

James is tied with Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin

To form the list of highest-earning authors, we look at print, ebook and audiobook sales from Nielsen BookScan figures, consider TV and movie earnings and talk to authors, agents, publishers and other experts. Earnings are tabulated from June 2014 to June 2015 and are pretax; other fees are not deducted.

One author who does not make the cut: Harper Lee. Our scoring period closed before “Go Set A Watchman” was published, while the reported $2.5 million a year she receives from “To Kill A Mockingbird” royalties are not enough to make this ranking’s $10 million entry.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Recent Good Reads

 I have just had the pleasure of reading two books I really enjoyed. Here's a link to one:

The other is Little-Black-Lies by Sharon-Bolton

Very different stories, very different styles, but in a way, similar locations. Both come through the voices of three first person POV characters which gells very nicely with what I'm writing at the moment, except that I have rather more than three. I have four, though two are of lesser importance.

The location is, in both cases, an island. One the Falklands in 1994 and the other, Harris in both present day and in the 1860s. Both remote with isolated communities who react to tragedy in a way modern day urban dwellers do not.

In both cases, the writing is an effortless read - quite different, in my view to the rather jerky, purple prose style of The Tea Planter's Wife which I began some time ago and still have not read more than halfway - though I have peeked at the end chapter to see what the fuss is all about. For some reason, the characters of The TP'sW did not grip or come alive for me though the place names brought back some  memories of a long ago trip to Sri Lanka. Was it still called Ceylon then? It might have been.

I can't claim to have been to the Falkland Islands, but I have been to Scarista in Harris and admired the beautiful seascapes. Both almost become characters in their own right in the books, whereas Ceylon stayed muted. There must be a reason why the characters of one story fail to claim my attention and I'm tempted to go back and treat all three as an exercise until I have the reasons to my satisfaction. Then I could use what I know to advantage in my own stories.
PS There's a very good review of Little Black Lies by Maggie Scott on Goodreads.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Rain, editing, dentists and holidays

 The rain goes on. We don't go for walks any more, Tim and I - we go for a splodge. Wellies a necessity, rain proof clothing a boon and off we go. In a strange way it is invigorating, and we can always come back to  nice warm house and a cup of coffee.
Good weather for editing, I hear you say. Well, yes, and I am. But I've found that I can only do so much before the eyes glaze over and I've stopped - the critical faculty ceases to operate. So at the same time as editing the beginning of the book Queen's Courier (the sequel to Abduction of the Scots Queen) I'm seeing the last few chapters through the critique group. This might sound as if it would be confusing, but it has advantages as well because each edit deepens the characterisation - or I hope it does - and refines the plotting. Working at both ends of the book means I am familiar with it in a way I wouldn't be if I was working from a-z each time.

This week I've had lots of dental visits, too. Three in a week is too much for comfort or a good night's sleep, but hopefully the root canal and the abscess are now history and I can banish the Paracetomols to the back of the drawer again.

Another good thing - we've started to think about holidays in France and possibly a week in Kielder Forest before the midgies emerge - and that means pre-May. They're nice thoughts to curl up with as I glance out of the window and contemplate the third walk of the day with Tim. Wish me luck - it's raining again.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Best selling fiction 2015

This morning I wanted to see a list of titles for best-selling UK fiction of 2015, and came up with this list:

Amazon Best sellers 2015

By Janice Frost

By Lee Child

There are many literary lists of titles that have passed me by, often by authors unknown to me. What I want to do is have a list of the best selling fiction for Amazon and then check it against a Nielsen list of all book sales and then check that against a list of American titles. I suspect there will an astonishing difference!

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016 and numbers

First post of the New Year.
 2015 visitor figures were not quite as high as 2012, which was the highest ever - but if the StatCounter had recorded the number of visitors accessing via mobile phones and ipads sooner, then I think it would have been my highest year since I started the blog.

I had been sad because blog visitors appeared to be dwindling. Then at the end of October StatCounter started recording over the range of newer gadgets, and the numbers rose quite dramatically.

Now if only book sales were doing likewise! Lots of pages are being read, but sales are definitely down. I really ought to gear myself up to promoting on a regular basis. My intentions are good but I am weak in the actual doing, so I have only myself to blame. Must get a grip!

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...