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.