Previous editions of the journal pages

January
  2010

December 2009 was not a good month.

Pain, physical and emotional, thickened with every passing day. It was not a month I particularly wish to revisit, so I apologise for this journal entry being somewhat shorter and much sadder than usual.

It all started with a torn muscle in my groin and a fall. I tripped over my dog Rum, landing heavily on my knees. (Thank you for the joke, Julie. She sent me a lovely smile along with a get-well card which included the message: "I always knew rum would be your downfall.") I thought I was only shaken and bruised, but two days later I was in agony unable to walk. My back was out and the muscles of my left leg, from thigh to ankle, had gone into acute spasm, adding to the interestingly-coloured bruising!

I only have a small house, but the distance between bed and bathroom may as well have been a marathon. More often than not, abandoning dignity, I gave up trying to hobble and crawled to "the necessary" or "seat of ease" as termed in my Sea Witch novels. Ice, heat, painkillers. In the end my doctor prescribed something really strong which deadened the pain and what little was left of my awareness. I stayed in bed and became great friends with various BBC Radio 4 programs.

The 10th of the month brought devastation. Kathy had to take her horse, Izzy, to the vet because she had suddenly become chronically lame in her hind foot. Regular readers may recall that Izzy had recently undergone treatment for her hock. That had healed, but x-rays showed dreadful, irreparable damage to the navicular bone. The tendon had been scraping across it and had almost worn it away like a cheese-grater. Nothing could be done, except to put her down. We have lost several horses over the years but never has the sorrow been this hard to bear. Maybe my grief was all the worse because I was bed-bound and beyond hugging her, so could do nothing to help my daughter through her distress.

And then my elderly Mum had another fall. The ambulance was called and I managed to hobble to the hospital going through and beyond the pain barrier while waiting in a very busy Accident & Emergency department for a doctor to attend Mum. Her heart was failing, dehydration, old age - basically her almost 92-year-old body was shutting down. The nurses of Bracken Ward were so very kind, and once I'd made it back to my bed, in absolute agony, I at least knew Mum was in the best place and being well looked after by professionals.

My leg was mending enough by Christmas Eve, so on crutches and using a borrowed wheelchair once at the hospital, I managed to visit Mum. I opened her Christmas cards with her, told her all the latest family news and helped her eat her favourite yoghurt treat. I left her dozing into a peaceful sleep. Sadly she passed away in the early hours of Christmas Morning.

As I write this, thoughts of all the things that now have to legally be done are whirling around my head adding to the loss of my Mum, and Kathy's horse, with the lingering memory of excruciating pain. It is however a relief that Mum is at rest; she was very frail and ready to go to her God. Izzy had lived in a happy, kind and caring home and did not suffer much pain. She will be remembered with great affection.

As is our way we have taken a deep breath and moved forward. Kathy has found herself a new horse, a grey thoroughbred called Ace, whose owners were desperate to find him a good home. Let's hope he helps to heal Kathy's deep hurt. I want to add how very proud I am of my daughter. She ran the house while I was ill in bed, visited her Nan in hospital, took care of everything and set about ensuring that Yule would not be forgotten, even if enthusiasm was a little on the thin side. She decorated the house beautifully, did all the shopping and then cooked an entire Christmas dinner. December was a sh*t of a month - but my daughter ranks among the very best in the entire world.

Thank you Kath.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"Everything has balance: good, bad; light dark; happiness, grief."
 

February
  2010

Well, January was a mild improvement on December, but we were not far from being snowed in, and the water taps became frozen up at my daughter's stable yard, resulting in the need to scrabble around for various empty bottle to fill from home. I had two funerals to attend in one week, my Mum's and my Aunt's, and I have the added delight of being executor for Mum's will. Say no if anyone ever asks you to do the job. Still, I am at least able to walk about again now - although no way was I going anywhere near icy pavements. Hibernation has its good points, I am thinking.

Talking of hibernation. I thought squirrels tucked themselves away for the colder days? Obviously the two in my back garden have not read the right nature manual. Okay, I know they are technically furry rats with tails, but I like my squirrelly squiggles. They are fun. I put nuts out for them on a shelf beside my office window and they jump across from the fence. I can even feed them by hand if I go out quietly with a tempting hazelnut.

I just had to laugh yesterday though! I'd taken Rum the dog for his morning walk in Epping Forest, come home and done all the boring chores, then sat down at my desk with a cup of coffee and a couple of digestive biscuits. The squirrels were doing their squirrelly thing outside, so I opened the window and left a piece of biscuit on the shelf. It was duly pounced on and appreciated. Ten minutes later, having finally got down to doing some work, I looked up and there was Squiggy on his hind paws, standing up at my window peering pathetically in at me. I fell for it of course. I got him/her another biscuit. Does anyone know how you tell a Mr from a Mrs/Ms Squirrel by the way?

The birds are also doing well. My gang of yobbo sparrows has made it through the bad weather, as well as the robin and the blackbirds and the collared doves.

We had a panic with the fishpond because the pump which keeps the water clean packed up, but it did not take long to get a new one, so the fish are fine, all happily 'hibernating' on the bottom. Now all I want to complete the countryside effect is a couple of hedgehogs in the garden.

I could also do with a return to normal brain-function. I'm assuming the extra do-lally-ness I am presently experiencing is an accumulation of the residue of December's unpleasant events. If not, I must have senile dementia setting in. Yesterday I was driving along a road I have known for over 50 years, but suddenly had no idea where I was. And today, my husband received a letter from our bank sending condolences for the death of his wife. I telephoned to tell them in no uncertain terms that I am still very much alive - only to find our bank account had been suspended and was quite a bit of money short. Cross was not the word. I then discovered that I had sent a letter to my Mum's account, at the same bank, to pay the funeral bill. Only I had managed to insert my own account number and not hers. So the bank had assumed Mrs Hollick had passed away and had paid the bill from our account.

In my defence, the bank should have realised the account number did not match any of the other details of my mother's name, her address etc, and they had most definitely not been notified of my demise. Everything was easily sorted out, but I am now wondering what other stupid things I have inadvertently managed to do these last few weeks. Do let me know if you spot anything!

Add to all this I have been doing a massive re-edit of A Hollow Crown which is to be published in the USA and Canada in November of this year as Forever Queen. I needed to cut it by about 46,000 words. Gulp. At first I was reluctant and had no confidence, or even inclination, to do so. But on the advice of a very good author friend, who truthfully told me there was a great book trying to get out of a good book and I should welcome the chance to set it free, I plunged in.

Reading through, I realise that A Hollow Crown was not given the final polish by my old, previous, publisher that it should have had. There are so many unprofessional errors that a good editor would have picked up, and indeed, that I should have noticed. Things like duplicated words and phrases, rambling paragraphs, repeated information, Point of View changes and 'head hopping' from one character to another.

Maybe I am now a more experienced a writer, or just more confident in myself? For whatever reason, the Big Edit is proving most enjoyable, although extremely hard work.

My worry now though, given my present deranged brain-scrambling, is that maybe the chapters I have been blythely deleting were, in fact, important to the story. Oh well, that is what editors are for. Sorry Sara at Sourcebooks Inc, I hope I'm not going to be sending you back something that is even more gibberish than it was in the first place!

Hmm, maybe I'll go wrestle alligators as a new career move.

Lege feliciter (read happily).



"Writing is the hardest way to earn a living; with the possible exception of wrestling alligators."
 

March
  2010

I hate the dark, dull days of winter. Still here we are at March 1st, Spring is about to leap over the horizon and the sun will start shining. Oh well, we have to be optimistic don't we? It might stop raining or snowing soon.

You will be pleased to learn that I have been working hard. The Great Edit is more or less completed, apart from my US editor Sara having another read-through, a few last minute twiddles and the final copy-edit etc. Thank you to Jo Field, my UK freelance editor who scrutinized the opening few chapters for me. Best wishes and Bright Blessings for your house move this month Jo. The lucky lady has bought a beautiful old house overlooking the Devon coast where, in the Sea Witch Series, Jesamiah was born - but you will have to wait for me to write Ripples In The Sand to find out more about that part of Captain Acorne's past.

I was dismayed at the errors in A Hollow Crown, but have now done my best to give the final polish the book deserves. It is due to be published in the USA and Canada in November 2010 under the title of Forever Queen - hopefully I might have the new cover to show you next month.

Meanwhile, I am trying to convince Arrow Books to re-print the updated version. Sadly, I am not having much success. Can anyone tell me the logic of today's publishing houses? A Hollow Crown is almost out of print in the UK, less than 100 copies remain in stock. In future they will only be produced via Print On Demand, a more environmentally friendly way of publishing books as there will be no storage needed, but would you not think that Random House would welcome the offer of the new file and take the opportunity to produce a novel that is better, tighter, and 40,000 words shorter? I appreciate the file they possess will have to be re-formatted, but with modern technology is that a difficult or expensive process? And the saving of something like 140 fewer pages on the present book has surely got to be worth it. Apparently not.

For my books in North America, the beginning of March sees the publication of Shadow of the King, the final volume in my Pendragon's Banner Trilogy. These editions are doing very well indeed. A big thank you to the many fans who have contacted me to say how much they love them - I am truly flattered and overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback. I have always known my Trilogy would be a success, it's just a pity I've had to wait all these years for them to be so beautifully produced and efficiently marketed. Thank you to everyone at Sourcebooks Inc. for your enthusiasm and support.

Here's a taster review: "Because Hollick adds her own unique twists and turns to the familiar mythology, Arthurian devotees will be eager to see how she wraps up her version of the legend." - Margaret Flanagan, Booklist. The full review will run in the March 15 2010 issue.

My appreciation also to all of you who kindly voted for Shadow in a recent blog poll. I wasn't the winner, but my status as an author was not compromised!


I have a "Muse and Views" blog site that I am in the process of building. It could do with some more followers and added comments please. Around the middle of each month I will post my views or musings, and welcome any feedback and comments. Nothing is meant to be taken seriously, I might add, this is just a place for me to share my thoughts and ideas with people who are interested in my books, or writing in general. If I eventually gain enough followers and interest I might make my additions weekly. We shall see.

The present "view" concerns King Arthur. Why not hop across after reading this journal entry and have a look.

As for my pirate captain Jesamiah, he is collecting new fans by the boat-load. How's this from one of his recent followers? "I fell in love with Jesamiah from the first chapter and continued to fall throughout the entire book. What an amazing, complex character!" And this: "Just a quick line to let you know I not only fell in love with Jesamiah but Tiola too... wasn't expecting that! What a rogue that pirate is!"


Ron and I had a lovely weekend at the start of the month with our good friends Towse and Graham and Bronwen Harrison, singer, songwriter and all round fantastic artiste. Bronwen is the voice behind the music on the 1066 Myspace site, and has written a fantastic song for the movie in conjunction with harpist Sue Rothstein. Can't share it with you yet, but I can most certainly direct you to Broni's Guesswork site. The wedding dress worn by the bride in the Gathering Dust track, by the way, was mine.

Bronwen's talent, like so many struggling musicians, is not being recognised. As with new authors, just how do creative people get noticed? We do this silly job of writing books or songs because it is an urge inside us that we cannot set aside. All we want is for our work to be published so we can share it with others who will appreciate our gift. Unfortunately, business and money-making takes precedence over the darn good read or listen. Only politicians, cooks, footballers and 20-something celebrities seem to get into print at the drop of a million-pound contract.

I hear there is now a proposal to make a movie of Jade Goody's life. While it is very sad that someone so young should die of cervical cancer - what life? She was 27. Do we really need such a movie? {long sigh...} And, in case you are wondering, yes the 1066 movie is still on track, we're getting there financially.


February was rounded off nicely by having a delightful lunch with author Suzanne McLeod in a London pub near Leicester Square. As she says herself, she writes books about dangerous faeries, seductive vampires, bureaucratic witches, eccentric goblins, rock-solid trolls, magic, mayhem and murder. We had a great time talking pirates, vampires, fantasy fiction and writing in general. The lunch was good too!



Just read on Facebook that apparently women somewhere in the world, may have been Turkey, can sue for divorce if their husbands do not provide them with enough coffee.

Ron? Ron! Are you reading this.?

Lege feliciter (read happily).



"There is far too much blood circulating in my caffeine system"
 

April
  2010

Dealing with the aftermath of my mother’s death has not been the easiest of things to cope with. A solicitor handled most of the legal side of applying for a grant of probate, but there have been clothes to bag up, china to sort, furniture to clear and someone to collect it to take to a charity shop. That was arranged, but the men who came decided only to take the lighter stuff, not the heavier furniture, which left me with another headache to sort.

I had to arrange for valuation of the property and find a suitable estate agent. Letters to write regarding her telephone, electricity, council tax bills: more letters in reply to the first lot of letters written.

Somehow in between sorting all that I have tried to keep writing, but it has not been easy. I have, however, been busily researching the Jacobite Rebellion of 1719 and am, I assure you, making slow progress forward. I think I can divulge a short synopsis for Ripples In The Sand. Jesamiah has brought the Sea Witch to harbour at Appledore in Devon with a cargo of tobacco to sell (legally) and brandy (illegally). He gets involved with smugglers and Jacobite rebels which, of course, lands him in trouble. Meanwhile, Tiola is unwell. She has to find the source of what is draining her energy, and discovers that the elemental Sea Spirit, Tethys is behind her debilitation. In consequence, Tiola must face her fears and great danger by regressing into her past, where she hopes to find the answers to many questions; notably, why is Tethys so obsessed with Jesamiah?

Also, as a taster, the next in the series will be On The Account, where Jesamiah meets up with a mysterious foreign stranger in search of a valuable casket and discovers more about the Sea Witch herself. Well, that’s enough giving secrets away.

A few side-track addictions have also knocked writing concentration on the head. Twitter and a Webcam to Colonial Williamsburg to be precise. I love Twitter, it is quite a challenge to say all I want in the required limitation of 140 characters, and some of the other tweets are hilarious, some, very useful.

I found a particularly good link to a blog site about editing. If you are a new writer or have still not grasped the Big Picture of editing I suggest you have a quick read. The response to a comment by a guy called Jason Black explains clearly and concisely what editing is actually all about. One of the best analogies I have ever come across.

The Williamsburg webcam is situated near the Capitol Building – which features in Bring It Close, for in Jesamiah’s time this also housed the Court Room. The camera view is Duke Of Gloucester Street – known to the locals as DOG Street. To the left of the camera is a white building which is Shield’s Tavern, haunted by an ex-1700’s proprietor, and to the right the recently completed Coffee House. Mark this building well, for it will appear in On The Account as Alicia’s new establishment. Ah, that’s another secret slipped out.

I looked at the webcam just now and there were hundreds of people gathered near the camera. My goodness, is it a public hanging? Get out Jesamiah! Run!!!

A quick check back: phew, they’ve all gone. Of course, now I'm curious to know, to where have they gone? Darn, I should have kept watching.

My “Muse and Views” blog which I mentioned last month is gaining attraction at last. For the next View or Muse I intend to either chat about book covers or the stereotypical woman in historical novels. Not sure which yet, so you will have to visit the blog around the 16th of the month to find out.

I have also been busy with my recent garden addition, a greenhouse. I have always fancied one but the old garden at our previous home was way too small, so coming into a modest inheritance from Mum’s estate has meant we can now afford a few luxuries. The greenhouse took priority as it is spring and time to get the veg a-growing. The one we bought is 6’5” by 6’7” and came as a flat-pack self-assembly. Trouble is, my husband is dyslexic and is not very good at reading instruction booklets. It should have taken an afternoon to assemble. A week later, after having to take down most of what he had put together because he’d done it in the wrong order, it is finally finished. Not too many plants got flattened in the process and the dog got trodden on only twice. Although the greenhouse is a touch lopsided, it matches the wonky shed and the crooked fence.

Now I have an added excuse for not writing because I will be gardening. I’m looking forward to sitting out there in the summer. Regardless of the weather I can be tucked in my greenhouse, surrounded by an abundance of salads, vegetables and colourful flowers working busily on my trusty lap top, enjoying a glass or two of wine.

I assure you the wine is to aid my writing - it is to lubricate the imagination.

It is not another distraction… hic…

Lege feliciter (read happily).



"Life is short. Drink the good wine first"
 

May
  2010

Still sorting out Mother's estate. It seems Social Services a few years ago applied for her to be awarded Pension Credit. That was fine when she had very few savings. And would have been even finer if someone had told me about it. Consequently, when she sold her big house and moved into a smaller flat, and thereby obtaining a nest-egg of savings, I had no idea that we should inform the "Government" and get the extra pension cancelled. I don't usually make political or religious statements here in my Journal - but if Them at No. 10 Downing Street were to pay Senior Citizens a standard, decent pension in the first place I wouldn't have to be dealing with all the extra stress of what will probably result in having to pay back about four years of "overpaid" pension. Just as well I haven't spent all the Inheritance yet isn't it?

I've been re-reading the hard copy (technical term for a printed-out version) last edit of A Hollow Crown - which will be entitled Forever Queen in the USA. I'd set it aside after the mammoth re-edit of a couple of months ago so it could be re-read with a fresh eye. I'm quite pleased as there are only a few minor errors and alterations- not bad when you consider over 40,000 words were edited out. I have also taken advantage of the nice weather and have been sitting in the garden to do the reading. Lousy job this writing career.

There is a blackbird who sits in one of the trees singing beautifully, but every so often he comes out with a perfect mimic of a modern "trim" telephone ring.  There was recently an article on BBC Radio 4 about bird song; more and more birds are mimicking mobile phones, alarms, sirens etc. And they sing in regional dialects. Recordings have been made and slowed down so that all of the sound spectrum can be heard - normally not audible to the human ear. A wren outside my bedroom window is always the first to start up the dawn chorus. The littlest bird with the loudest song.  Presumably with a cockney London accent or an Essex Chav?

My various blog sites seem to be attracting a few passers-by at last, although more followers would be nice (hint). The "Muse and Views" is enjoyable to write and I have added a new Blog 'Ladies, Gentlemen & Others' - which fictional characters inspired you? This month, female characters. Next month the men. and yes you guessed it, following that will be "others". I try to update the blogs around the middle of the month - unlike this journal which is always updated on the 1st.

Kathy has been competing side saddle on Ace - you will find some pictures on her own blog Springwillow Equestrian which includes her monthly side saddle diary that she is writing for Hooked On Horses Magazine.

I had hoped to have some news from my UK publishers to share with you, but as I go to press with this edition of my Journal we are not quite ready to "go pubic" so I will talk about plans and ideas in detail next month. Suffice to say, future prospects are looking very exciting for my books and I have found it difficult to keep quiet! One thing can be revealed however; new, fabulous, covers for the Sea Witch Series. Watch this space folks!

We went to see Riverdance on Thursday 29th April at the Apollo Theatre Hammersmith,, we being myself, Kathy and Ron. There was not much I can say except it was absolutely fantastic. I am now going to be mercilessly ribbed by Kathy who already teases me because I cry during specific movies - the end of Last of The Mohicans, for instance. Every time, tears roll down my face. There's a new one now; I cried during Riverdance. The opening sequence, the rhythm, the emotion, it caught my soul and awakened the echoes of my deep past. My throat tightened as that basic drum and foot-tapped beat stirred the distant shadows of passed-on DNA genes, and tears fell. A deep, almost primordial feeling, a brief, loving connection with the people who were my great, great, great (how many time over?) grandparents, my ancestors.

OK I'm a ninny.

One advantage of receiving my "inheritance" from Mum is that I now have a little extra money to have the cataract in my left eye seen to via private healthcare. Early days yet, I have a lot to think about. Apparently a false lens can be fitted which will partially sort my extreme short-sighted problem. It would be wonderful to see things without the need of glasses or contact lens, but I understand there are drawbacks to the opertaion so I will have to take advice and have a good think. I have always been extremely short sighted; when starting school the teachers had a word with my mother suggesting I needed an eye test. I had no idea the world was not a permanent out-of-focus fog. When told I desperately needed glasses Mum remarked "Maybe that is why she is always falling up the kerb and dropping things." Yes, maybe it was. Mind you, even with contact lenses I still can't remember people's faces.

I am assuming that bird singing is a blackbird? Where are the binoculars.

Lege feliciter (read happily).



"Grant me the ability to forget people I don't like, the fortune to meet those I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference."
 

June
  2010

Busy, busy, busy.

I have submitted the synopsis for my next serious historical novel to my UK & US publishers, having finally managed to feel comfortable with the idea of writing a follow-up to Harold the King. Until now I have balked at the prospect because I do not want to write about that awful man William of Normandy again. However, I’ve found a different story to tell which will cover the period of the 11th Century nicely. Been toying with the idea for a while anyway, then being forced to sit down and write a general albeit rough sketch made me do some preliminary research, and that 'got the little grey cells working', to quote Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

I am going to write Hereward’s story, the working title being The Lost Kingdom, which is the sub-title tag line for the US edition of my Saxon novels. The general basis will be rebellion against William. Now that I can do! The novel will overlap A Hollow Crown - to be titled Forever Queen in the US - and Harold the King. If you have no idea who Hereward was, take a look at the article on my Muse & Views Blog.

The bad news, do not expect the book until some time in 2012.

Jesamiah fans need not worry; Ripples In The Sand is making progress, and if I can I will get On The Account, Voyage Five in the series, completed before I start with Hereward. And after that, the sixth Jesamiah story, Gallows Wake, and then maybe a serious historical nautical novel based on the life of William Dampier. You would have met him, briefly, in Sea Witch. I quite fancy writing his story. An extraordinary man, he took notes from the Galapagos Islands a century before Darwin, worked out the sea flow of various streams, such as the Gulf Stream, sailed around the world about four times and charted much of north west Australia – only he assumed he was looking at some small islands. I shall enjoy researching him in more detail. So that’s my writing time taken care of for the next decade.


I have also had an exciting time working with a fantastic Graphics Artist, Cathy Helms, from North Carolina. Cat has designed new covers for the Sea Witch Series - they are stunning, and will be revealed on the home page of my main website on 1st July 2010. We are also working on new covers for the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. I am hoping they will be ready for a 1st of July launch as well.


There are one or two other things in the pipe-line for July, but the plans are not finalised yet so I’m going to tease you by saying you will have to wait for next month to discover why July promises to be exciting.


One of the things I’m looking forward to this month (no pun intended) is to have the cataract in my left eye sorted out. With luck, by the time I write the next journal entry I may not be peering through a misted fog, but seeing things clear and bright. Keep everything crossed for me.


Sad news came my way towards the end of May; two dear friends lost their beloved pets, a dog and a cat. I don’t know what I would do without Rum to walk with through the woods of a morning, or the two cats, Kitty and Scrabble, to be here as companions. As a family we have lost more than out fair share of animals, including several horses over the past few years. Animals touch our lives so briefly, but so very, very deeply. I hope there is a heaven for animals. If there isn’t then it is not much of a place, for a life without a faithful pet is not a life at all.

Another venture I am pursuing is a journey into the past. I have decided to have a DNA Ancestry search. According to Oxford Ancestors.com, “A person’s maternal ancestry is traced by mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA for short. Both men and women possess mtDNA, but only women pass it on to their children. Your mother inherited it from her mother, who inherited it from hers, and so on back through time. Therefore, mtDNA traces an unbroken maternal line back through time for generation upon generation.

For my money I should get an exact readout of my DNA sequence and discover to which of the ancient 'clans' I belong, and from which ancestral mother I am descended. In the European Timeline there are seven major Clan Mother groups from which most Europeans are descended. Everyone in the same ‘clan’ is a direct maternal descendant of one of the ‘clan mothers’ and carries her DNA within every cell of the body: mtDNA helps cells use oxygen – so I am using my clan mother’s mtDNA every time I breathe. The clan mothers had ancestors themselves, and their genealogies show how everyone alive today can trace their maternal ancestry back to just one woman. She lived in Africa around 150,000 to 200,000 years ago and is known as “Mitochondrial Eve.” Has anyone written a novel about her, I wonder?

I find it fascinating to be able to stretch back through time and touch the DNA soul of the mother of mothers. Mind you, I’ll not be best pleased if I discover I am descended from Norman stock! Watch this space for the result, it will probably be in the August 2010 Journal.


So, back to my writing. I have two pirate adventures and an historical fiction novel to research and write. It’s not the writing that worries me, it’s the having to think about what to write that takes the effort. Pity I can’t time travel and do two things at once. Oh well, the DNA information and my imagination will have to suffice, until Dr Who decides to park his Police Box in my garden.

Lege feliciter (read happily)



"I don't just write - I have to think as well."
 

July
  2010

Ta-ra! {sound effects of a trumpet accolade…}

Well, here they are - my new, fabulous covers for the Sea Witch Series and the UK editions of my Pendragon's Banner Trilogy.

As you may have already noticed, this website is also in the exciting process of being renewed and updated. My heartfelt thanks to Webmaster Mal, and Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics who have done such a grand job in so short a time. Cathy is a freelance graphics designer and I do not hesitate to recommend her should you be looking for an eye-catching and professionally produced cover for your novel, or need innovative graphics for a website.

So why have I acquired new covers? Well, from 1st July 2010 my books will be published by CallioPress, a new independent UK publishing house. CallioPress is to replace what was Discovered Authors, and will hopefully embrace a new start with promising opportunities at home here in the UK and overseas.

Like many small companies DA experienced problems of various sorts, some of which did become confusing and frustrating for their authors and their staff - but I must balance things here: I have not heard from any self published author, from any company, who has been 100% delighted with service received. Most "independent" authors have something to grumble about or a disappointment of one thing or another to air; be it the expense, production, sales, marketing, late receipt of books, too many missed typing errors or difficulties with distribution etc.

Publishing problems whether self publish or mainstream seem to be a common experience and, sadly, almost the norm. From the variety of mainstream companies I have been with over the years I have received late payments of royalties, books that have been printed incorrectly and promises that never materialised. My e-mails to companies with a large staff base have gone unanswered. Staff have changed without any notification to me, which possibly is not always important, but when it is an author manager/editor with whom I have established a close working relationship, this is annoying. I had four editors in five years at one publisher - one of them I never even met. By comparison then. small independents actually manage quite well! Fortunately my present US mainstream publisher, Sourcebooks Inc, seems fine with only minor hiccups - the wrong chapter heading dates appeared in Pendragon's Banner for instance. The "downside" of having your books with a larger publishing house is that the author loses control of how the novel is produced - cover design, format and even the title is their choice, not the author's, so huzzah for small independents where there is more control over the finished product. I am pleased that the prospect for new beginnings, with all sorts of interesting plans is on the horizon for my books. I warmly wish CallioPress a highly successful future.

For myself June was also hectic. I had eye surgery on my left eye for the removal of a cataract. The operation was fine, but after a few days I became bitterly disappointed as the replacement implant lens was obviously an incorrect focus. I was devastated that, apart from seeing colours brighter and whites whiter, my sight was no better than before. It turns out my eyes are a rare and unusual shape, so the calculations were a fraction out. All fine and dandy - but I now have to undergo surgery again. Once the left eye is sorted I will think about getting the right eye done. My thanks to Heather Utteridge and Paula Mildenhall for their advice and support.

Meanwhile I am supposed to be getting Ripples In The Sand finished before September (!) Cathy already has the brief for the cover. I want to start researching the follow-up to Harold the King and there are book functions to attend and things for 1066 The Movie to complete.

The garden is looking somewhat "rustic". My husband, Ron, says I should be more truthful. Okay, overgrown then. (You'll find a glimpse of it on my picture diary blog. Scroll down to the 7th May 2010 entry.) It was not so rampant back then. Sadly a fox managed to get into Ron's pigeon loft a few weeks ago and killed fifteen of his best racing pigeons, including most of the young birds. Foxes leave such destruction behind them.

Kathy is doing well with her side-saddle riding. We are looking forward to her competing at the Royal International Horse Show, at Hickstead, Sussex on the first day of August. She is to enter the historical costume class. The final judging takes place in the International arena; all the years we have attended Hickstead, either as spectators or competitors, she has never ridden in that beautifully-kept main arena with its permanent features such as the famous Derby Bank, the Devil's Dyke, stone walls, hedges, ditches and water-jumps intermingled with natural features such as a small lake and the lovely silver birch trees. But now she has her chance. I just hope Ace behaves - let's wish her luck! Kathy could do with a few more followers for her blogsite Springwillow Equestrian, where you will find photographs of her and the horses.

It is a hot and sticky evening here in London, very airless and humid. At least the four parties nearby have quietened down. I am writing this on the day England went out of the World Cup. Have to say, I am sick of football. I will light my citronella candles to keep the voracious midges at bay, and get another chapter of Ripples completed before I go to bed.


Here's to new beginnings and successful creative achievement!

Lege feliciter (read happily)



"Creative doing beats creative thinking any day"
 

August
  2010

I keep finding myself clicking on my new website and grinning at the new, beautiful graphics. Have you seen the horses on the back pages? And the reeds down at the bottom? Click these reeds to take you back to the top of the page - neat eh?

Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics and my webmaster, Mal, have certainly done me proud. And you just wait until you see the cover Cathy has designed for Ripples In The Sand! All will be revealed next month.

The new covers for my other books have been greeted with admiration and praise; they look fabulous. I apologise for the delay in printing but CallioPress was inundated with orders for new books, and setting files, printing etc takes time. We are now up and running though - all my new books are available for order from Amazon.co.uk or from any bookstore. Be sure to order the CallioPress copies though, not the old Discovered Authors ones. Some of my books are on Amazon's Kindle UK - although I am not a devotee of electronic books. Give me the real thing any time.

I am also offering, free of charge, signed bookplates to anyone who contacts me before the end of August. Plus, do tell me if you have placed an order for my books as I will include a few postcards and one of Jesamiah's blue ribbons as an extra thank you.

July was a fantastic month, made notable by a visit to the UK from my USA friend James, who wanted to investigate the Harold Godwineson Trail. First on the visiting list was Bosham, near Chichester in Sussex. Pronounce it Bozzum by the way. There was nigh-on a gale blowing in from the sea, and it was fascinating to discover how quickly the tide came in. Warning: If ever you go there, do not park on the quay, not unless you want to convert your car into a boat.

Bosham's Holy Trinity Church was originally Saxon and was very probably built by Earl Godwine as a watch tower to guard against Viking attack. Legend has it that Cnut's daughter, who drowned in the mill race, is buried there and I am certain that Harold II lays at rest beneath the chancel arch. Waltham Abbey, I firmly believe, was given his head and heart. This sounds gruesome, but was quite acceptable practice back then. I am also sure that Harold's brothers, Leofwine and Gyrth, and his nephew Hakon are buried in the church. There is a distinct atmosphere at Bosham - and anyone knowing about the Akashic Records will know exactly what I mean. More about those another time!

James and I visited Waltham Abbey and a few days later went to the place - Battle, seven miles from Hastings. Another site that is steeped in the "energies" of the past.

In between "Harolding", James and Kathy went off for some evenings of enjoyable entertainment: London ghost walks, a quiz night at the pub and chatting/singing with good friends. I'm afraid James will have to come back again soon as I didn't get to talk about half the things I wanted to discuss.

For photographs of the US invasion of England, visit my Picture Diary.

Meanwhile I had found a grounded swift. These little acrobatic birds cannot take off from the ground so I spent quite a while tossing the poor thing into the air. There must have been something wrong though, for he/she tumbled downward again each time. In the end James and Kathy resorted to putting Swifty high in a tree at the stable yard. Hope it survived - I love listening to the swifts as they swoop shrilling overhead.

I heard some sad news soon after visiting Bosham. John Pollock, local Bosham historian, dear friend and generator of several inspiring ideas for scenes in my books passed away at the end of June. I have spent many a happy hour talking history with John, and I will miss his enthusiasm, encouragement and support.

When I wrote the scene of King Cnut turning back the tide in A Hollow Crown (Forever Queen) I set this legendary tale in Bosham. You must all know the story - Cnut (Canute) wanted to show how powerful he was, so he sat on his throne by the shore and commanded the tide to turn back. Naturally it didn't obey him and he almost drowned. In reality he was showing that he was not powerful and could not turn the tide, and as the tide came in fast and high this incident probably took place at Bosham, where Cnut often stayed. He did in fact grant Bosham to Earl Godwine and had his own estate on the far side of the creek.

After reading this scene John decided to test my theory and sat on the steps along the quay while reading Cnut's speech from that chapter to his wife, Maggie, who stood on the jetty a short way off. She could hear every word and John got his feet wet. He telephoned me to say the scene as I had written it worked perfectly, and assumed I had researched every detail as my idea was so accurate.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that I had made the whole scene up by using deduction and logic. But then, I often find that scenes and events I thought I had invented turn out to be correct. Must have something to do with the pocketful of imaginary kryptonite I carry around with me.

Lege feliciter (read happily)



"If knowledge is power, imagination is kryptonite"
 

September
  2010

Fabulous news from the USA. Forever Queen, to be published in November, has been selected for the autumn Sourcebooks Reading Club Novel.

The Reading Club is a fairly new venture for Sourcebooks; book bloggers were excited about the first book, Edith Pargeter's The Brothers of Gwynedd, and my publicity manager thinks Emma's story will go down with the bloggers really well. Review copies go out soon to about thirty bloggers who will post their reviews during November, with "final" copies going to more bloggers in October. This, I am told, guarantees at least two reviews each day for the first three weeks of November.

One of the bloggers will host an "open evening" where a discussion about the book takes place on Monday 22nd November from 7-9pm EST, which is about midnight here in London. Just as well I am a night owl not a dawn lark! As it is a blog, anyone from the UK can take part. I'll let you know more details nearer the time.

I am so excited about the marketing Sourcebooks have planned for Forever Queen - at last things are starting to happen for my books! Yippeee!

I'm having a spot of bother with the UK version though. A Hollow Crown remains with Random House in their Arrow Paperback imprint. I contacted them to ask if it was possible to align it with the US make-over; a total re-edit and cutting by 40,000 words. I regret to say they are not interested, nor will they grant me the rights back. I cannot understand why a publisher would not be eager to produce something of a better quality, with about 100 pages less to print.

If you want the more polished "Author's Cut", purchase The Forever Queen. If you prefer the longer, original version, go for A Hollow Crown. Both are on Amazon. Thank goodness my other books are in my own control here in the UK - and Sourcebooks are highly enthusiastic about my writing.

I have also signed contracts with Artemis Yayinlari, a Turkish publisher, who will be translating Crown/Queen. Having looked at their website I think I will be in good company. Things are certainly looking up!

There are a host of other events to look forward to: a talk about King Harold at Waltham Abbey later this month; my annual foray to the Hastings re-enactment at Battle Abbey in Sussex in early October, and I have been asked to do a creative writing session at the New Writers' Book Festival in Nottingham.

As for the Sea Witch Voyages, two fabulous authors have invited me as a guest on their personal blogs in September 2010. I first met Sky Purington on Myspace. A developing author who has started doing well for herself: "where romance, magic and history come together."

Carolyn Poling Schriber, author of Beyond All Price, a fascinating novel based on the life of Nellie M. Chase, the American Civil War's equivalent of Florence Nightingale, has invited me to celebrate the book's launch. Her special website will be activated from September 15th - 17th. Captain Jesamiah Acorne is going to be just as busy. His growing crew of fans will be pleased. Savvy?

My daughter Kathy had a good August, although things did not start too well at the Royal International Horse Show. Entered for the side saddle costume class, riding Ace, Kathy looked beautiful in her feminine equivalent of a Kings Royal Rifles Corps uniform, but in the arena Ace took a dislike to the numerous flies, so did not settle well. Pity. The judge told Kathy that had he behaved she would have been placed quite high up. They fared better at the National Side Saddle Association Show in Buckinghamshire. Wearing the same costume Kathy came 3rd - and she was against some stiff competition. To add icing to the cake, Kathy's youngster, Shinglehall Casino (we call her Lexie) was given the accolade of First Premier at the British Equestrian Federation's Futurity Grading. To non-horse people this means Lexie has been assessed and passed as a prospective UK sports horse; the human equivalent would be getting an A+ grade in an examination.

Kathy is also following a long-term ambition by assisting at course building for show jumping at a local equestrian centre, something she would like to train for and do full time. I know she's my daughter and I'm obviously proud of her, but she has always known what she wants, and works darn hard to achieve it, despite the many knocks and setbacks that life has thrown at her.

Takes after her Mum. Knowing what we want is enough to go on, because we know, in the end, we'll get it.

Lege feliciter (read happily)



"Sometimes knowing what you want is enough to go on."
 

October
  2010

As you may have noticed, the home page has a slightly different, new, look to it. Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics is to aid (and abet?) my webmaster by maintaining this "shop window" for us. The intention is to offer an interesting welcome to all visitors, whether first timers or established regulars. As with this journal, the home page will change on the first of each month - so do call back to see what we have to offer next.

I had an exciting September as a guest on several blog sites (see last month's journal) and as the invited speaker for the King Harold Day "lecture" at Waltham Abbey. What a great evening that was! A lovely group of people, cheese and wine, good company. I did feel slightly awkward as Waltham Abbey has always lain claim to being the burial place of King Harold II, but there is a stack of evidence to show that he is buried on the south coast at Bosham, near Chichester.

Risking being pelted with rotten tomatoes and cabbage leaves, I braved my conviction in public. There was a bit of silence from the audience, but then I proposed the rest of my theory which, I hope, is an ideal compromise - and probably the truth. Harold's torso is interred at Bosham, but there was no head discovered with the remains found under the chancel arch. So I think his head and heart were buried at Waltham Abbey. That would make perfect sense, and was common practice in past times. I read an article some while ago about a skull being found beneath where the alter used to be at Waltham Abbey, to my annoyance I cannot find it now. If anyone else has come across this reference please email me using the Contact button above.

A couple of months back I mentioned that Robin and Lance from the 1066 movie had spent the day filming an interview about my involvement with the film and my writing in general. At last the entire interview is available to view on YouTube It is quite long, in six parts, but I hope you find it interesting. It was certainly fun to do. I think Robin has managed to cut out all the bits where I was giggling.

There will be another You Tube coming soon, hopefully for the start of November when The Forever Queen (the US edition of A Hollow Crown) is released. Cathy of Avalon Graphics is designing me a book trailer. So far it is looking good, and with Bronwen Harrison's soundtrack I hope we will be on to a winner. Watch my Facebook and Twitter pages for up-to-date information. Links to these are at the bottom of the home page.

September 19th was international Talk Like A Pirate Day. I joined in the fun and festivities by hosting a pirate day on my Facebook, even using the facility to turn all the links from English UK to English UK Pirate.

To honour the occasion I designed another blog profile - Pirates - make ready the guns! You'll find pirate polls, a piratical alphabet, pirate fiction, pirate non-fiction. Pictures of Jesamiah Acorne - and "that Sparrer Feller" and, as a special treat an excerpt from book four Ripples In the Sand, which I hope to publish next spring.

Also new is a suggestion I followed up from author Linda Proud; the keeping of a weather diary. As she pointed out, we all need to describe various weather changes in our novels, so I took on her idea of keeping a daily diary. The result is my weather wise diary. Possibly the photo images are more exciting than the diary, but actually I am rather enjoying the quick daily entries.

I am looking forward to meeting lots of new people and old friends at Battle Abbey on the 9th/10th October, and the New Writer's book fair in Nottingham the following weekend.

October 14th is the 944th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. I think those who know me are already aware that I am no great admirer of Duke William of Normandy, and that Harold Godwineson is a hero of mine. I do very firmly believe that William was nothing more than a tyrant who won by sheer good luck, or bad luck from the English point of view, on that day in October 1066.

While perhaps Harold II was not quite a rebel, he has most certainly won my heart.

Lege feliciter (read happily)



"Tyrants win battles. Rebels win hearts."
 

November
  2010

I have succumbed. Two new toys to play with. A new mobile/cell phone that has all sorts of gadgets and WiFi stuff so I don’t have to miss out on Facebook and Twitter if I’m out and about. I haven’t quite discovered yet why I would want to be on Facebook and Twitter when I’m out and about though – I’ll get back to you on that one. I suppose I ought to know what WiFi is short for as well.

The second toy I have treated myself to is a Kindle. Like it or not, technology is the next thing. How many of us couldn’t see the point of the Internet when it first appeared? I remember saying to my webmaster – rather scornfully I might add – “Why would I want to turn my computer on to look for a restaurant, when I can simply look in the Yellow Pages directory?” Ah, the words of the ignorant! What would we do without the ‘Net now?

My Kindle is small, light, and easy to use. In fact the most difficult thing was attaching the leather-look cover that I bought as an extra. I had already downloaded, or is it uploaded, some novels before it arrived, so I could start reading straight away. {Webmaster, rolling eyes skywards - It's "Downloaded"}

I had assumed you obtained books via a computer, but the Kindle works from WiFi, so everything is transferred just as if you were receiving text on a mobile cell phone.

There are hundreds of books on Amazon for free. Mostly classics but quite a few additional interesting items. I can look forward to reading Dracula, Three Men In A Boat, Cranford and Tom Jones. I also found the Journal of Captain Cook. New books, of course, have to be purchased – and hopefully all of my novels will soon be on Kindle.

It looks a good gadget and will be a lot easier to use when travelling. No more carting heavy books around, but I don’t think it will fully replace the book. The feel of a book is something special, and special books on a shelf are treasured friends. A Kindle is nothing more than a flat piece of useful plastic. It will have its uses as an addition to best books worth keeping, and if it gets youngsters reading then I’m all for it.


Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics and I had great fun putting the YouTube video trailer together for The Forever Queen. The difficulty was finding the right images to use. We wanted some words of text that would explain the story – young girl, Emma; lonely, afraid; loveless marriage and joyless motherhood etc and I think we’ve not done too bad a job for our first try. My Kathy looks lovely posing as Emma. It was a very cold and windy day when we took the photographs, but the way Kathy’s hair is blowing about added to the drama of the image.


The Forever Queen is now available in the USA, on line from Amazon.com or in stock at most Barnes and Noble stores. Look out for my tour of various blogs. Details will be on my Facebook and Twitter pages, and my own blog. You will find these links on my Home Page


I had a great time at Battle in Sussex signing books last month, and I met some lovely people, Paula and Daphne among them. The following weekend found me at the New Writer’s book fair in Nottingham where I met more fabulous people.

Thank you to John Baird’s Mum and Dad for a superb dinner and my apologies to Paula Newcombe, author of Second Sight. I knew perfectly well who you were Paula, I just couldn’t remember your name. Please don’t take it personally, it was one of those ’senior moment’ weekends.


All this jaunting about and playing with new toys has disrupted the work I am supposed to be doing, and I’m afraid Ripples In The Sand has been on hold for several weeks. Re-reading the final version of Forever Queen and also editing I Am The Chosen King (US edition of Harold the King) has meant that I couldn’t concentrate on writing as well. The editing had to take precedence. Still, its finished now, so Jesamiah here I come.

And I think with my tendency for an exuberance of comma-itis my editor, Jo, will give a wry smile of relief at the quote I’ve put at the top of this journal entry!

Lege feliciter (read happily)



"The older I grow, the less important the comma becomes. Let the reader catch his own breath."
 

December
  2010

December 4th is my Jesamiah's birthday. There is a scene in Sea Witch where he finds himself in deep trouble - doesn't he always? - and remarks "Fine way to spend a birthday." To honour the Grand Day, I will be unveiling the cover of Ripples In The Sand on my Blog - another fabulous Avalon graphics design. The book itself is still "in production" but I hope to publish it in the Spring.

To think I started writing Sea Witch over five years ago! I had the inspiration for it while walking on a drizzly Dorset beach whilst on holiday in late October. Yes I know, don't say it... Came home, started writing, and couldn't stop. I even wrote on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. I was in the middle of the scene where Jesamiah's ship is sinking, so Boxing Day morning I just had to write; I couldn't leave him there, drowning.

Characters are real you see, they are my friends, they exist, albeit in the world of imagination.


I had a wonderful few days in Devon last month. My friend and editor Jo has recently moved into a house which overlooks Appledore. Ripples In The Sand is mostly set there, so I wanted to investigate. Appledore is a quaint little place, full of narrow twisting alleyways - a smugglers' paradise. My Jesamiah will fit there nicely. I have already written most of the scenes that involve a tavern where Jesamiah is staying. I called it The Full Moon.

One of those 'shiver down the spine' moments: Reading a local guidebook while wandering cobbled streets that date back to the early 1700's, I discovered there really was a Full Moon tavern. Virtually where I had placed what I had assumed to be my made-up one.

There's another treat if you go to the Sea Witch Trailer. My thanks to Cathy Helms for putting it together and to Bronwen Harrison for the Soundtrack. The lyrics are taken from a song she wrote called "Gallows Wake." More about that next month.


I've just completed a Blog Tour for The Forever Queen (US edition of A Hollow Crown) culminating in a Blog Chat hosted by Monica on the Bibliophillic Book Blog. It meant staying up until 2 a.m. UK time, but was worth it because it was so good to "chat" to readers who enjoy my books. Thank you again Monica, for your hard work.


I'm not looking forward to December, although I usually love Christmas. The year before last I had a massive disagreement early in the month with someone who used to be a close friend. I gave up trying to put things right. If a friendship has to be worked at, then I guess it isn't much of a friendship.

Then last year one of Kathy's horses had to be unexpectedly put down - I still can't believe that awful day. I spent most of the month in bed in agony from a damaged muscle in my groin/thigh (I never want to go through pain like that again!) and then my 92 year old Mum was taken into hospital. Waiting seven hours in casualty with nowhere to sit was probably the last straw for my leg injury. I remember hobbling to the car park leaning heavily on my husband's arm after Mum had finally been admitted to a ward. Dawn was not far off and there were several robins and wrens singing. Both birds have such beautiful songs.

Mum passed away at 2 o'clock on Christmas morning. Now I will be honest, I didn't get on with my Mum. Dad was another matter. She could be cantankerous and demanding, and had never shown my sister or I any support or encouragement, so my feelings now that she is no longer here are somewhat mixed emotions.

I'm not too keen on revisiting the memories of those weeks and that morning, but the residue will have to be faced. I think I will feel a lot better once the barrier has been met and negotiated. Maybe Santa will leave me something nice under the tree to compensate?

A small bit of sad news, I had my other old cat put down a few weeks ago. Scrabble was about 19, and starting to get frail. Came as a bit of a blow, though, as we'd had Kitty - almost 20 - put to sleep not long before. I miss the cats; maybe a new kitten come the spring? We'll see. Rum, our dog, is enough company at the moment.

A friend of mine sent me this little story about a cat and the Battle of Hastings site at Battle in Sussex. King Harold's common-law wife, Edith Swanneck, had to identify Harold's body, after he had been decapitated and dismembered. How did that woman find the courage to search for the remains of the man she had loved for over twenty years? My friend Carolyn Schriber, author of Beyond All Price, said:

'Did you know that back in 1998, the pub across the road from Battle Abbey had a calico cat named Edith? They claimed she spent her days prowling the battlefield, still looking for Harold. I was attending a conference at the abbey, and saw what the owner meant - the little cat was prowling around, looking behind fallen logs and under bushes. Sadly she got run over a while later, but we all felt that at last Edith was reunited with her Harold.'


I hate the dark evenings and long nights at this time of year; all I want to do is curl up and wait for spring to come. This will be our fifth Christmas here at number 32 - I hope Kathy chooses a tree that will fit easily into the corner of the living room. I say that every year; she never does!

Well, for all the ups and downs these last months, and the threat of Winter Depression slithering too near for comfort, I'll not let the dark get too close to take hold. After all, When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. And on a cold, crisp, frosty night - wow! Look at those stars!

Brightest Blessings for the Winter Solstice and Yule. May your God walk with you in peace and protection. Waes Hael!

Lege feliciter (read happily)



"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."