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Previous editions of the journal pages

January
  2012

2012. Hopefully an exciting year. For us Londoners the Olympic Games will be a focal point, but living close to the main stadium as I do, I'm not very enthusiastic about it. The probable road chaos is not promising for us residents - still, I will be boring you with that in the Summer I expect.

For now, it is New Year Resolution Time. I'm hopeless at making and keeping them so I thought I would share my 2012 goals rather than make firm resolutions that last about three days maximum.

1. Actively promote well-written, well-edited and well-produced self-published novels from good, aspiring authors.

2. Try to shed a little weight (don't we all make that promise to ourselves?)

3. Learn something new

4. Do one of the things on my "always wanted to do" list

5. Get back to a proper routine of writing

Item 1
I have already made a start by becoming the Historical Novel Society's (HNS) Self-published Review Editor. The aim is to show writers who decide to self-publish - in any of its variant forms - that in order to be taken seriously as a writer a book has to be well-written and well produced. Anyone can write a novel, but not everyone can write a readable novel.

Number one essential - get a professional editor.

I'm thrilled to be on the HNS review panel; this is a good way to actively encourage worthwhile writing for self published historical fiction novels, and hopefully gain the recognition that so many independent writers need. With the London HNS Conference being planned for September 2012 the HNS will, I hope, be in high profile this year, but as a member of the planning committee I will be writing more about this event next month.

Item 2
I cannot diet. When I try I put more weight on as I develop a need to comfort eat; and oh, I do so love cheese! My aim is to be practical and set reasonable, and attainable, goals. So I want to shed one stone. When I've lost that, I will attempt to lose another one. That, I think I can do. Its not too daunting a task. I intend to go about it by not picking at food between meals, by eating sensibly and trying to get a little more exercise. I will keep you posted about how I get on. Don't hold your breath though!

Item 3
I'm tempted to consider a new evening class or add another certificate to my somewhat erratic, and almost abandoned degree course, but I know I do not have the spare time or mental concentration to do this successfully, so I think I'll go for something different, and something that is not involved with my writing. I would like to learn how to knit properly. We'll see. first get some knitting needles and some wool.

I knitted a scarf once. It ended up like the famous Tom Baker Dr Who extra-long scarf because I couldn't figure out how to cast off. Yes, I really am that hopeless.

Item 4
There are places I have always wanted to go to but never found the time, or anyone who wanted to come with me. It's no fun going on your own, so I end up not going. The National Gallery in London, for instance. Never been in there. Hampton Court, I was taken to as a young child - too young to appreciate it or realise what I was looking at. I want to visit some of the English Civil War battle sites. I want to travel on a boat from Southend to London - all the way up the Thames in other words. On a Thames Barge would be the ideal. What fun! Don't know if that's possible, but I would so like to do it.

I will make a list of all these places and ideas and promise myself to get to at least one of them accomplished!

Item 5
I love Twitter and Facebook. Having a regular presence on those two sites is a good thing for marketing - and socialising, but not at the expense of my writing. It is, unfortunately, also a wonderful excuse for writers' procrastination.

Last year was horrendous from my writing perspective - I barely wrote anything new - with the exception of articles, blogs and so on, which are all very well but not money-earning career-wise novels!

With my UK publisher going bust and therefore having to re-edit all seven of my novels so I could re-publish them (not including A Hollow Crown which remains with Random House) I had no mental capacity to spare for creating new adventures. To be honest, from August onwards I felt mentally written out. But the backlist is now in print and I feel that my writer's batteries are recharged. Christmas and the New Year has come and gone - so it is back to regular writing. Head down, and full sail my girl! I have drawn breath and am ready to start writing new stuff - completing Ripples In the Sand being a priority. No more fiddling with unnecessary Internet activity. If you see me on Facebook too much could I ask you to remind me I said that please?

I had a wonderful Christmas: my daughter cooked the most fabulous Christmas dinner and I must add that my good friend, James from Long Island, New York, stayed with us over the holiday period. Wonderful to see him and enjoy his company, but what do they teach Americans these days? He had no idea about Christmas crackers or Boxing Day. He got his own back by educating us about Thanksgiving though.

I won't mention the fact that he ate all our mince pies, got lost in London and the gin bottle emptied pretty quick.

One sad note, my webmaster's mother passed away over the Christmas period. Although Mr Webmaster is unseen and un-named his presence is very much to the fore in that he has overseen this web site, and edited my monthly journal, from the very start. I'm sure my regular readers will join me in expressing our deepest condolences.

I found this month's quote on Twitter. Nothing changes does it?

Wishing you all all the best for 2012

Lege feliciter (read happily).



"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book. - Cicero, 43 BC"
 

February
  2012

Recently there has been quite a bit of debate about e-books taking over from real books. The doom-mongers have been bewailing the probability that before long real books - those things with covers and paper pages - will be a thing of a past, and that Kindle, Nook, and such will take over the world.

Most of us disagreed. They said that about the theatre when movies started, said it about movies when video came out. Yes, video disappeared because of the DVD - but that is the same type of technology only vastly improved. And actually, thinking about it, they said the horse would be extinct because of the car...

So I was pleased to read several reports stating that more real books are being sold than ever before, and, in fact, the e-book is enhancing real books.

There is a reason for this. Kindle (for instance) is great to read on a train or plane, it's useful for those of us with poor sight because the font can be enlarged; the book you want to read is delivered instantaneously (as long as you are near wi-fi reception). On the other hand, you can't easily flip backwards and forwards to catch up on a scene you missed, or to check on a character. You can't see maps and genealogies very clearly - a real pain in historical fiction as they are often essential to the story. The feel, the smell, is all part of a real book reading experience. And most of all - a real book doesn't run out of battery five pages into your next session, just as the action is getting exciting. Having to get out from under a cosy duvet to find the wretched charger - or worse still, have the screen go blank ten minutes into your several hour journey is not much fun. The only limitation with a book is enough light to see to read, and a decent size font.

I like my Kindle but I love real books. 'Nuff said I think.

I am a bit concerned about my sight. I'm okay indoors, but outside my left eye blurs. My optometrist can't discover why, as there is nothing obvious. I think it is to do with too much light hitting the retina, a bit like dazzle on a sunny day. What with that and the double vision I have because my right eye muscles have drooped - hmm I'm 60 next year, looks like I'm falling to bits already. I can sort of manage. Very much miss driving now, but not much I can do about it. I do find it difficult when out and about though. Steps and kerbs are scary because added to my disintegrating hip I am terrified of falling.

I have found recently that I am getting to the point where I don't want to go out. I can very easily see why people lose their confidence and end up staying indoors. A friend suggested I get myself a white cane. I use a cane (or walking stick as we call them here in the UK) anyway because of the aforesaid dodgy hip, so I looked on e-bay and purchased one. I've not plucked up courage to venture beyond the front garden gate with white cane yet, I'll let you know how I get on. At least when I fall over now, or can't see bus numbers etc people won't think it's because I've partaken of too much of my Jesamiah's rum.

Regular readers of my journal will be pleased to know I've stuck to one of the items on my list of five resolutions I mentioned last month. I won't share which one, but I can tell you it was not number two. That has been a miserable failure. Despite cutting down on biscuits, cake, chips, I've put weight on. Not fair.

Lovers of historical fiction who live in, or can get to London may be interested to know that details of the Historical Novel Society's London 2012 Conference have been unveiled. I am involved as a committee member in charge of promoting self-published / indie books, so I will be doing a short talk along with Helen Hart of Silverwood Books and self-published author Richard Denning, and I am thrilled to announce that my designer Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics is going to come to London from North Carolina to join us. I am so excited at the prospect of meeting her!

I have decided to be completely extravagant and have booked a hotel in London for the conference weekend. Possibly a bit daft as I only live at the end of the Victoria Line Underground railway, but what with eyes, hips, age and general senility, I was rather dreading traveling backwards and forwards for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday - so I thought, blow it, I'll treat myself to a London hotel. Looks like we are all going to be disrupting the chosen venue though, so the entire weekend promises to be exciting.

One further thing about the difference between a real book and an e-book: an e-book doesn't have a soul. A real book is a thing that comes alive.

Here's the proof: there is nothing like a real book.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"There's nothing quite like a real book."
 

March
  2012

There are two sides to writing novels - the writing of them and the marketing of them. After all, what is the point of writing a book if no one reads it? Just getting the darn thing up on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or elsewhere is fairly easy, although the machinations of Amazon are a mystery unto themselves, but there is also no point in having the book there for people to buy if no one knows they can buy it. Hence the marketing via Twitter, Facebook and Blogs.

The word "blog" is short for "Web Log" but I don't know anyone who uses the original term now. Twitter is not for the fainthearted, it takes stamina, courage and fortitude to understand Twitter - and the site should carry a Government Health Warning: "Hazard Alert - this site is addictive". Facebook is not so compulsive, but it is high on a writer's top-ten-ways-to-procrastinate list. The ideal is to strike a happy medium; enough on-line marketing to keep your name in high profile, but not so much that the actual writing gets shoved to one side.

I went to a very useful writer's seminar organised by the Society of Authors last week. The topic was Tweeting and Blogging. First thoughts were that the audience mainly consisted of us older age-group writers, for whom, presumably, Tweeting and such is a complete bafflement. It was lovely to say hello to several people I knew, literary agent Carole Blake and author Linda Proud among them.

Speakers were Alex Johnson from www.shedworking.co.uk and Nicola Morgan HelpINeedAPublisher.blogspot.com. What made me feel particularly happy was Nicola's statement that it was okay to take time off from writing to concentrate on building a name for yourself on-line. Good. That's what I've been doing - and yes, I think it has paid off. What wasn't so heartening was the suggestion that if you are going to blog then you have to do it regularly and often. Whoops. Failure. I tend to blog at random when I have something to talk about. No longer.

Henceforth I will have a thrice weekly spot on my main blog www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com although I confess that I will cheat a little. Tuesday Talk will be something historically interesting, Wednesday's Words will be a quote, chosen at random from my novels, and an interesting image taken from English Heritage - with a link, of course. And Thursday Thoughts will be, yes you guessed, a few inane thoughts of mine posted on a Thursday.

My only problem will be remembering what is what on which day. I'm having a problem remembering days. I reckon this is because I work at home for myself. A Sunday is much like a Monday to me.

But I digress. I have other blog sites - the picture diary on www.helenhollicksdiarydates.blogspot.com I rather like as it's a memory lane place for myself as well as any interested reader, and then there is the Journeying To The Past blog, journeystothepast.blogspot.com which concentrates on my Akashic Records Sessions.

I have asked Mr Webmaster to add the blog links to the main toolbar menu in order to make it easier for you to hop across to have a quick read. Don't forget to press the Back Button to return here though.

And don't worry, I have not forgotten my writing. I have now set myself a routine: answer e-mails in the morning, Blog, Tweet and Facebook until lunch, then write, and maybe do a little more casual Tweeting in the evening.

The one thing everyone using these Social Networks must be aware of, however, are Trolls, the term used for the not very nice people who add their warped remarks to various posts and comments. Unfortunately these people enjoy stirring trouble and being plain rude.

The rule is to walk away and not rise to their bait, but if you are like me it's very hard to keep quiet. So the "One" rule comes into play. Just one - preferably profound - answer and leave it there. Failing that, blast them with your atomic quill and send them to the murky depths of the Ink Pot of Bad Manners. And always stick to your principals where trolls are concerned. Always.

Unless you know you will win the argument.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
 

April
  2012

It is nice to be busy, but why does everything come at once?

I've treated myself to a concert at the Barbican, London - a very rare chance to see the fabulous singer Loreena McKennitt. I have her songs playing in the background quite often while writing, my favourite two being, The Old Ways and The Highwayman.

Both of which are, in my opinion, soul-surfers: songs which ride on the spirit of the soul. Well, they do for me, anyway. I'd like to turn the Highwayman poem into a novel one day (watch this space, but don't hold your breath!) And of course, The Old Ways, with its reference to the sea and its feel of freedom is so suited to my pirate, Jesamiah, and his woman, Tiola.

Then there are several horse shows coming up, and my birthday, though maybe I'll skip that one. A visit to my good friends in Aylesbury is arranged; I'm meeting my publisher, Helen Hart and a couple of lovely authors at the London Book Fair, and several other dates are ticked off in the diary.

The only date not marked in said diary is Easter. Serves me right for buying a cheap diary from a cheap shop. Obviously it was only £1 because important things - like the date of Good Friday and Easter Sunday - had not been printed in it.

I also messed up when the clocks changed on the last weekend of March. I love clocks, especially the ones that have a soporific tick-tock and a nice strike movement, which anyone who has telephoned me will know - as the clock in my office has a rather loud chime. I diligently went round the house on the Saturday evening putting the sitting room, kitchen, hall and office clocks forward an hour. I completely forgot about the bedside table one though. Guess who had to fly round on the Sunday morning because they were late?

The clocks changing always upsets the animals as well, Doggo expects to be let out at his time, the chickens to be fed at theirs, and the cats. yes cats. We now have two. Sybil joined us a few weeks ago. She is now about sixteen weeks old; she was found shut in and dumped in a suitcase on someone's doorstop. Her brother - or sister - ran off in fear when someone, fortunately, was curious enough to open the case. I doubt that the one who ran off survived, because it was very frightened, and a few days later we had a snap of cold weather and snow.

The people who found them could not keep a cat, so me being soft hearted offered a home. Sybil is white and black and a little minx. I intend to put a few photos on Twitter and Facebook at some point - when I get a minute to myself, that is.

Mab our other cat took a while to accept Sybil; there was a fair bit of growling, grumbling, hissing and peering suspiciously round corners, but the old cardboard box trick soon got them playing together. Why is it that cats love cardboard boxes I wonder?

They now sleep together curled up on my bed of an afternoon - that's another thing about cats, they are very good at discovering where the warm spots of a sun-drenched west-facing window are!

I am, however, assuming the yowling, growling and scampering feet indicate they are playing, not squabbling.

Ron and I have also been busy in the garden. The greenhouse is sorted out - we've only been meaning to do it all winter; the trellis is up, the garden seat moved and the bird table mended. Mind you, with two cats prowling the garden, I'm not sure the last one was worth doing. The birds have abandoned my garden, en-mass, for safer territory.

The final "busy bee" of the month is the launch of Discovering the Diamond - hints and tips for writers, which I wrote in conjunction with my editor, Jo Field. We both became rather fed up with being asked the same questions over and over, and with having to make the same replies each time, so we gathered together a few notes, which proved so popular we added a few more pages - ending up with enough to turn our efforts into a modest e-book for Kindle.

With a cover designed by Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics and published by Helen Hart of Silverwood Books I am proud to announce its Kindle Publication.

  United Kindom : UK
  United States : US

Jo and I hope that many prospective new writers find some of the content useful. Writing and producing novels, especially if you decide to go self-publish, is hard work. The road to publication even longer and harder. But as the quote says:

  "It's usually a dirt road that leads to a diamond mine."

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"It's usually a dirt road that leads to a diamond mine."
 

May
  2012

As I am gadding off to Devon for the last few days of April, and not back until this post should be "live" on my journal page, this is being written slightly in advance of my normal last day of the month dash to meet the deadline.

My dear friend and editor Jo Field has recently moved house, so I'm off to see the new pad. It's somewhere near Bideford and not far from a pub. What more do I need to know?! While there I will be catching up on some research for Ripples In the Sand, which is coming along nicely now I am properly back in the swing of writing. There are a few things I need to check, so you might bump into me on the beach at Appledore or in the North Devon Maritime museum.

One of the most exciting events at the end of April is the 're-launching' of the Cutty Sark - the world's most famous clipper ship. It's scheduled for April 26th. She is the last surviving tea clipper and the fastest of her time, Built in 1869 as a merchant vessel and then used as a training ship she was put on public display in 1954 in dry dock at Greenwich, London. Tragedy struck when she was badly damaged by fire on 21st of May 2007 while undergoing extensive conservation. Fortunately everything had been removed from her for this purpose, so only the hull and old - replaced, not original - decking was destroyed. As her hull is supported by iron struts, not wooden, these also survived. The refurbishment has cost £50,000 and from the photographs I've seen, and the glimpses during the London Marathon, she looks fabulous.

Mr Webmaster has promised to visit her with me (set in stone now, Mate as it's on here!) so look out for an account of our adventure on my blog some time soon.

While mentioning my Webmaster - hearty congratulations on your recent retirement. I intend to keep you busy with this site. reward will be a free dinner once a month.

Also on a Nautical Theme, I mentioned that I am on the committee for the forthcoming Historical Novel Society London 2012 Conference. Apart with helping (or hindering) the general organising, I am involved with two workshop "break-out" sessions. One is for self publishing, which I will talk about another time, the other is a nautical-based panel session billed for Saturday 29th of September, from 11:50 to 12:50, entitled: 'Ships Ahoy! - The challenges and joy of writing nautical HF'.

Author Linda Collison has done an excellent job in organising this, and J.D. (David) Davies will be joining us at 'The Captain's Table'. His credentials are the Journals of Matthew Quinton, and he is an acclaimed historian, Chairman of the Naval Dockyards Society, Vice-President of the Navy Records Society, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and member of the Council of the Society for Nautical Research. Oh no, we don't have just anybody on our panel you know!

We plan to have an empty chair in honour of Patrick O'Brian, probably the greatest nautical fiction writer, and tickets for the Conference are already on sale. Don't miss out!

Also on J.D. Davies' illustrious list of credentials - he is the author of Pepys's Navy. The quote for this month is from Samuel Pepys Diary, which I am in the process of reading. It is hilarious in places and a must for anyone writing this period of English History (circa 1660) It includes the return of the monarchy, Charles II and the Great Fire of London.

Here is the entry for Tuesday 1st of May 1660

This morning I was told how the people of Deal have set up two or three Maypoles, and have hung up their flags upon the top of them, and do resolve to be very merry to-day.

and this is the entry for the 1st of May 1668. (The Walthamstow mention is interesting since I live there!)

When we had spent half an hour in the Park, we went out again, weary of the dust, and despairing of seeing my Lady Newcastle; and so back the same way, and to St. James's, thinking to have So huzzah for the goodly sight of the wonderful Maypole!

met my Lady Newcastle before she got home, but we staying by the way to drink, she got home a little before us: so we lost our labours, and then home; where we find the two young ladies come home, and their patches off, I suppose Sir W. Pen do not allow of them in his sight, and going out of town to-night, though late, to Walthamstow.

On the 1st of May milkmaids used to borrow silver cups, tankards and such and hang them round their milkpails, with the addition of flowers and ribbons which they carried upon their heads. They then went from door to door, accompanied by a bagpipe or fiddle, dancing before the houses of their customers in order to obtain a small gratuity from each of them.

In London thirty years ago,
When pretty milkmaids went about,
It was a goodly sight to see
Their May-day pageant all drawn out.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"What is England without Maypoles?"
 

June
  2012

It will soon be midsummer. Half way through the celestial year. Gracious me! Cathy Helms, my designer, has created a fantastic home page to celebrate the Solstice. Do take the time to have a look.

As ever, I have been as busy as the bees in my garden which have finally emerged now it has stopped raining. Ripples In the Sand is almost finished - just a few more chapters and then the editing. It's been a hard haul getting this far, what with one thing and another, but the horizon is in sight and I'm sailing under full canvas with a following wind. Soon be finished.

Some of my time this last year around has been taken up on marketing, making full use of Twitter, Facebook and my Blogs. Not every author likes Social Media sites, and they can be a pain in the proverbial backside, but the basic fact is, if you are Indie Published - or even traditional mainstream - and you want people to buy your books, be they hard copy or Kindle, then you have to let people know the books are out there. Just having them listed on Amazon is not a sales pitch. Nor is it good practice to post here there and everywhere "buy my book", "read my book" - and even "Hi, I've posted an advert for my book on your Facebook Page." (Err no, you haven't, I've deleted it.) The quickest way to be unfriended, unfollowed and unrespected is to do any or all of the above. Social Networking is about sociably networking - so learn to do it well and the rewards will pay off.

We have some new additions to the team of 1066 the movie. (Click here if you are on Facebook to "like" our page.) A costume designer and set designer for instance, and the wonderful actress Olivia Hussey, famous for her role as Juliet, is to play Gytha - Mrs Earl Godwin. Actor Lewis Collins of the UK TV series The Professionals is to play Earl Godwin. Exciting!

Plus a new addition at home - well, at the stable yard. Kathy, my daughter, took over an Arab earlier in the year, after losing our grey, Ace, but unfortunately, we cannot find a side saddle to fit his rather broad, flat, back, plus he is a little small for her. Well, compared to 17.2 Lexie he is! So I suggested we contact the racehorse rehoming centre - and we now have Jasper as part of the family.

His racing name was Crime Scene, part of the Godolphin string, and ridden on occasion by Frankie Dettori. Jasper's biggest claim to fame was finishing 2nd in the Australian Melbourne Cup. You can see pictures of our beautiful new boy on Kathy's blog: http://springwillowequestrian.blogspot.co.uk/

He's settling in nicely, although I'm sure he's just humouring us lowly peasants! We are a bit of a come-down after the elite status he was used to. He is lovely though, and the side saddle fits him. Now all we have to do is get him ready for the side saddle class at the Royal International Horse Show. At least crowds, brass bands and a lot of noise shouldn't bother him. As long as he doesn't assume he's at a Racetrack!

The new kitten is also well at home now. She thinks it is her duty to entertain me, so is constantly thinking up games to play; finding ribbons, feathers, bits of string or the odd worm or two for me to play with. Has taken it upon herself to make sure I am OK in the early hours of the morning, and is convinced that she can wiggle and waggle far better than any actor on the TV screen. Trying to insist that I do not like worms, neither can I spend all day dangling ribbons for her to chase that I do not want to be woken up at 3 a.m. by her walking on me and purring in my ear, - oh and please don't sit in front of the TV - is proving to be difficult. The question is, I suppose, am I entertaining her or is she entertaining me?

It is a year now since I have been independently published with SilverWood Books of Bristol UK and for the first time since I was initially published I am thoroughly enjoying being an author! My UK books look splendid, although someone said there are still a few missed typos. Where do typos come from? The books have been edited, re-edited and edited again by different people. I'm sure the Gremlin Errors slip themselves in giggling nastily at the last moment of the printing stage.

Getting all seven books ready last year after my previous publisher went broke was a hard task. That previous publisher, Discovered Authors / Callio Press, has vanished into obscurity, which is perhaps just as well as the MD owes money to a lot of people. I'm ashamed to have supported the man although the staff he employed, who are also owed their salary, were lovely. We all deserved better than that wretched man gave us. I doubt it bothers him, though; people who can take several hundred pounds off a pensioner on the pretence of publishing her book, but no book ever appears, nor is any money returned, do not possess a conscience do they?

It is an ill wind, as they say. The company going belly-up did me a huge favour, for I am finally being respected as an author again. I've just got to keep working hard to maintain that status.

The fact that my books are doing well, however, is all down to you, the lovely people reading this newsletter. You buy the books and read the books - if it wasn't for you, there would be no point in me writing them would there?

So, I shall continue gleaning ideas, storing away plots and prospective characters, watching Life as it passes by and stealing bits of it for my next plot, and say "thank you" to you all for the continuing support and friendship you give me.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book."
 

July
  2012

Horses. I've been around them all my life. As a very little girl aged three, I used to have rides on the milkman's horse (might have been the baker - all I can recall is a nice horse and a big van). I think her name was Mary.

I next remember winning a fourth rosette in a gymkhana race. I was about five. I recall it because I was on a bay pony called Noddy and somebody had plonked a hard safety hat on my head. Obviously someone was leading me - we set off in the race at a fast pace, then I was hauled out of the saddle, an egg and spoon was thrust into my hand and I was told to run. All fine and dandy, but the hat was too big and it had slipped down until it was resting on my nose. To this day I can remember running like mad and not being able to see where I was going.

I very much doubt that I actually came fourth, I think I was given a spare rosette as I was the youngest there. I still have it somewhere, a bit tattered and rather faded, but a treasure none the less.

With a friend, Tricia, I looked after a grey pony, Rocky, when I was nine, and as I grew older I started riding more often. I was in the Horse Rangers - an equine equivalent of the Girl Guides where we learnt about the care of horses as well as riding them.

Then came Rajah. I rode him for a while, and at sixteen - soon after I was employed in my first job, I bought him. Kaler came next. He was a lovely horse but too big for me, so I sold him and purchased Charlie, a chestnut part-Arab. I had a lot of fun with that pony; we entered a treasure hunt that was set in Epping Forest. Having collected the last clue, it was a race for home. But which was the quickest way to go? I kicked Charlie into a canter and let him find his own way. He took a direct line through the woods, jumping logs and ditches, and we won!

Silly pony, every time I rode out into the Forest he would shy at the same tree. No others, just this particular one. I assume Goblins lived in it.

I met my webmaster through horses - JR was a big horse, and I only weighed 8 stone back then. (You wouldn't believe that now!) I did laugh when he lifted his head and I was left dangling on the end of the lead rope.

When Kathy came along, she sat up in front of me when she was a few months old, and the circle turned around: when she was three I found her a friend's pony to ride. My goodness the miles my husband and I walked leading her on that pony.

She had her own pony, dear Rosie, for her thirteenth birthday, and now here we are with Kathy at thirty years old and me approaching my sixtieth - and we have two gorgeous horses. Well, they are Kathy's, I merely have the pleasure of patting them and paying towards their keep!

Lexie is a 17.2 chestnut, only four years old and as soppy as they come. Jasper is an ex-racehorse, rehomed by the Thoroughbred Rehoming Programme. On occasion during his racing career he was ridden by Frankie Dettori, and, as mentioned last month, his claim to fame was second place in the Melbourne Cup. Here's a YouTube clip of the race; his jockey is in the blue silks and cap, and he's running under the name of "Crime Scene".

Kathy and I are waiting for Jasper's full passport to come through so we can discover his breeding. All Thoroughbreds are descended from three Arabian horses - the Byerly Turk, The Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian.

This information from Wikipedia is about the Godolphin Arabian:

"Originally, this small stallion was considered inferior to the larger European horses of the time and not meant to be put to stud. This changed when Lady Roxana, a mare brought to the stud specifically to be bred to a stallion called Hobgoblin, rejected her intended mate, and so the Godolphin Arabian was allowed to cover her instead. The result of this mating was Lath, the first of his offspring, who went on to win the Queen's Plate nine times out of nine at the Newmarket races."

I miss riding. I cannot ride now because of my hip, and I miss helping out with the horses - even holding them is difficult because I cannot move quickly. I did lead Jasper in from the field the other day though. Kathy was away at the Three Counties Show in Malvern appearing as part of the Flying Foxes Side Saddle Display Team so Dad and I had the job of Horse Sitting.

Everything would have been fine if we'd not had torrential downpours. Lexie and Jasper were supposed to be turned out 24/7 - no way in the bog-patch that was their field. We did manage to turn them out for a few hours in between bucketing rain. I went to help lead-in and took Jasper since Lexie is way too big for me to lead. I had a mishap. I slipped in the mud and fell over. Splat, in a wet, muddy bit; although I suppose it could have been the nettle patch, so I'm not grumbling.

Jasper stood stock still, staring at me with a "What on earth are you doing down there?" sort of look on his face. Problem number two. I couldn't get up. So I grasped the neck band of his waterproof rug and pulled myself upright. He didn't even move. I was shaken and covered in mud and found it a bit difficult walking because I had hurt myself slightly. Being a horse, though, Jasper wanted to walk quickly, but, bless him, I gave a couple of tugs on his lead-rope and said "Steady up there lad, walk a bit slower," and he matched his pace to mine. What a wonderful horse he is!

Allah, who is said to have created the horse, did a good job with this one.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"And God took a handful of southerly wind, blew His breath over it and created the horse."
 

August
  2012

Fanfare of trumpets and a drum roll please: I am thrilled to announce that I have actually finished Ripples In The Sand. It's taken nearly two years - for which I humbly apologise. Circumstances beyond my control caused the delay, the main one being my previous UK publisher going bankrupt, the details of which followers of my Journal Page will recall.

There were times, these past months, that I didn't think I was going to make it to "The End" - it is very hard to keep self-motivation going, especially when there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of a tunnel. But the feeling of elation when you achieve that goal is fantastic. I am just as delighted at reaching that last page now, at a word count of almost 115,000 words, as I was when I wrote the last sentence for my first novel The Kingmaking. WhooHoo!

And although I say I have finished Ripples In The Sand, I now have to do a read-through of the entire text, and then a re-edit. In particular I'll be looking for things like continuity errors, passages that are repeated or don't make sense and over-use of certain words (i.e. 'laughed'). I will also delete any names of characters that ended up as bit-parts only. As example, an old man in the Full Moon tavern.

In my first drafts he was named as Saul Grundy. Now he is just an old man; there isn't any point naming a character who has no meaningful use in a story beyond one small scene. If a character is named, it is a clue for the reader to think "Ah, I need to remember this fellow, he may have a part to play later on in the plot."

Of course, I could fool you all by having old Master Grundy appear in the next Sea Witch Voyage - which will be entitled On The Account. I am aiming to get it written and published for 2014. For 2013 I have a new project in mind, but just what that is will only be revealed on an additional "extra" to my website. A secret bunker, further icing-on-the-cake pages for my regular readers and loyal followers, entitled H2U.

The H2U pages, and an extra Blog which complements them, can only be accessed by those who wish to "Opt In" and enjoy the exclusive extras. I intend to add something monthly, and the occasional titbit of interesting news. If you decide to opt in now, for instance, you can read a short deleted scene from Ripples In The Sand that will not be in the book, and will not be available elsewhere. The first link to Opting-In is below, and it can also be found on the Home Page.

More exciting breaking news, although I doubt anything will come of it. A dear friend has nominated Sea Witch for the World Book Night Free Reads project.

From the top one hundred nominated books, twenty five titles will be distributed here in the UK, free, on April 23rd 2013 to new readers.

As their web site says:

"Take a minute to remember what it was that made you first fall in love with reading: the incredible passion you felt, and still feel, for books, for stories; the excited feeling you still get when you pick up a book that you just can't wait to read and think about the places it will take you, the people you'll meet and the joy you'll get from reading it.

Now think about the millions of people who have never been on that journey or who, somewhere along the way, have forgotten how incredible it can be. Think about the power of putting a book in to their hands and saying 'this one's amazing, you have to read it'.

World Book Night reaches out to those who don't regularly read by using passionate book lovers around the country to become reading ambassadors and to do just that within their communities, book by book, reader by reader, hand to hand, getting the whole country reading.
"

Sea Witch will not make those top twenty five books, but I am honoured, and flattered, that a few of my readers think that my Jesamiah is worth promoting. Thank you - oh, and more votes welcome!

The one irritating thing is that the ex-Callio version seems to be the one listed (though if you do decide to nominate/vote there IS a current SilverWood version listed.) Looking at the rules of the nominations, the organisers check for the latest edition if a book is finally selected. To be honest I have no idea about funding such a project if Sea Witch was chosen, but I'll worry about the details later. For now I'm just grinning from ear to ear on behalf of my rogue of a pirate.

Ex UK publisher Callio Press / Discovered Authors / BookForce continues to have these annoying irritations regarding my books. Old copies are available through Amazon, for instance, from which I will not see a penny (or a cent) in royalties. The Managing Director is refusing to respond to authors who are still trying to get their money back, or copies of their books provided. It is a lost cause, unfortunately, the man has no conscience, and I feel deeply ashamed at ever supporting him. The only compensation, I too was tricked by him.

My webmaster will probably want to censor the above on grounds of said MD suing me. let him I say! I would dearly love an opportunity to say a few home truths about this wretched man in open court. And I know a few disgruntled authors who would be cheering from the gallery! One pensioner was relieved of over £800 a few days before the landlord changed the locks on the office door because the rent had not been paid. She has not had one penny returned.

I supported the company because the staff were wonderful (all of them) and they did their very best to produce good books by good authors. They did not get paid their owed wages, either. I did receive some of my due royalties (a small percentage) and I realise, now, that this was to keep me sweet. The MD knew that if I left, so would everyone else. A point I proved when I told him to take a long, contemplative walk on a very short pier.

So while this month's quote is meant to be humorous, in this particular instance, I was not the first to admit my mistake in supporting a company that spoiled the dreams of far too many nice people. I hope the MD sleeps well at night.

Opt in and read more via the Additional Content link here.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"I make mistakes; I'll be the second to admit it."
 

September
  2012

What's the saying? "If you want something done, ask a busy person?" Well take note: please don't ask me. I have managed to volunteer myself for a variety of interesting and exciting things, but, like London Buses, they are all arriving at once!

Ripples in the Sand has gone off to be edited - and I have managed to leave out an important chunk of plot. Jesamiah sails off to Cádiz to sell his tobacco, but in the preceding chapters he states quite clearly that if he wanted to go to Spain to sell it, he would have gone there in the first place, not Devon. But then I have him gaily sailing off. oops. So I have a few scene tweaks to do, and an entire chapter to write as an addition. I think I know how I'm going to concoct a plausible reason for his change of mind. And no, I'm not going to reveal what it is.

Then I am responsible for several things within the Historical Novel Society's forthcoming London 2012 Conference. I am a speaker in two workshops; one 'Ship Ahoy - The challenges and joy of writing nautical HF' based around writing the nautical novel. This should be fun. We are going to run it as if we've invited people to sit at the captain's table - and we hope to have a spare, empty chair for the spirit of Patrick O'Brian. Other speakers are authors Linda Collison (main organiser) JD Davies, myself, Margaret Muir & Richard Spilman. If you are a lover of the sea, nautical stories, or just like a good yarn, this one is for you.

With author Richard Denning, graphics designer Cathy Helms & SilverWood Publishing Director Helen Hart I am presenting 'Success the Indie Way - The advantages of being self-published in HF and how best to go that route.' So, two talks to prepare.

The Conference, held at the University of Westminster in London's Regent Street, promises to be a grand and exciting affair from the reception evening on Friday 28th September, through Saturday evening's Banquet and Sunday September 30th morning. There are two additional trips arranged: on Friday during the day, to visit the Maritime Museum at Greenwich - with a chance to take in other Greenwich attractions such as the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark - and on Sunday afternoon a guided tour of the Museum of London, with tea and cakes to complete the day.

Add in all the wonderful authors and speakers to look forward to meeting: Bernard Cornwall, Lindsay Davis, Margaret George, Phillipa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick. and me!

I am collecting and collating items for the free goody bags which are to be given to every attending delegate. That's 300 bags. With give-away books included, postcards, bookmarks etc, my office now looks more like a warehouse. I have to climb the cardboard equivalent of Everest to reach my desk!

I have my website journals to write, blogs to keep up to date. oh and my dear daughter decided to go away for a few days, so Ron and I were left Horse-sitting. Fortunately, now that the weather is somewhat better, they can be turned out in the field. Trying to look after them when it was pouring with rain for days on end was no joke.

Having passed the trial period of three months, we are now proud, full owners of Jasper the ex-racehorse. He is such a sweetheart. Lovely manners, so willing to please - although he does tend to get a bit excited when you take him out. Fair do's, he assumes he's going racing. It will take a bit of time and a lot of understanding patience to help him comprehend that his racing days are over.

Lexie, meanwhile, continues to grow. 17.3 hands at the last measuring. The little madam (ahem, big madam!) knows full well that me at 5 foot 3 inches cannot reach her head to put on her headcollar or fly fringe when she is in the field. Not even on tip-toe. Kathy is just going to have to teach her to kneel down.

Sybil the cat has managed to scalp herself; she has a bald patch about the size of a standard egg-cup on the back of her head. It isn't cut or anything, just grazed, but she keeps knocking the scab off.

I have soundly told her and Mab that they must stop playing cowboys and Indians.

Our poor old dog, Rum, is getting very wobbly now. He is completely deaf and his sight is going; he also has the doggy equivalent of dementia. But while he still enjoys a walk, is eating well, and not incontinent or anything we are helping him enjoy his Winter Days of Old Age. Every night, though, when he seems so deep asleep I think he has finally slipped away. He is a lovely dog, very loyal and loving, which is astounding when you think that for the first four years of his life wicked people treated him cruelly. I won't go into detail, but suffice to say we know he has had broken bones, and his loss of hearing is probably a result of bad treatment.

Bless him - when we first had him the pads on his paws were as soft as a new-born puppy. Which meant that despite being four years old he had never walked on hard ground, a pavement for instance.

The very first ditch he came to with us, he had no idea how to jump over it, or what to do with it. He does now! The deepest, smelliest stagnant-water ditch - he's in. He used to love paddling in shallow brooks in Epping Forest, but his old arthritic legs prevent that now. We'll miss him when he's gone to the great Doggy Field in the Sky.

So what with horse-looking-after, slow walks with the dog and playing with the cats, it isn't all work!

My to-do list seems to double itself overnight. I'm sure the gremlins climb in through the window and add new tasks while I am asleep. At least this Newsletter is now done, and I have updated my new H2U section of the website, an exclusive extra for opted-in members.

That's two jobs less. Next up is writing down a few ideas for the Self Published Indie workshop at the Conference I mentioned above. I want to include the necessity for good editing and the importance of publishing a book that is written and produced well. Too many people think that self-published books are second-class reads. At best amateurish, at worst a load of rubbish. Our aim at the HNS is to prove that misconception wrong. Indie published books can be every bit as good as - if not better than - traditional mainstream novels.

We will be including the hows, whys and wherefores of self-publishing a book. There are no hard and fast rules for this. Writing a novel is all about individuality of style, but there are rules for producing a book correctly. A good, easily readable font, correctly spaced margins, text printed as fully justified, not left or right-hand aligned. Not too many typos or errors, no glaring double spaces. No widows or orphans - one word or one sentence on a page at the end of a chapter - good editing at the proof-read stage should take care of that.

There are technical things to consider also. Not too many Point of View changes, (head-hopping from one character to another), good continuity and believable characters, but, beyond this, there are no rules really.

The list above is like the quote from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie - the "Rules" are more like "Guidelines".

Lege feliciter (read happily).



"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
 

October
  2012

I spent a delightful day towards the end of September with two wonderful people - my graphics designer Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org and her husband Ray - both of them over in England for the HNS London Conference. I am always a little apprehensive meeting people whom I've known well via e-mail, because cyber-friendship isn't always the same as real friendship. In this case I can genuinely say that Mr & Mrs Helms are two of the nicest, most genuine people I've ever met.

I'll be with Cathy throughout the Conference but have no Internet access during the actual event, and limited free time, so you'll need to log into my main Blog site on October 2nd to read my personal account of the event.

Attending the annual Battle of Hastings re-enactment in Sussex on the 13th and 14th October, so come and say hello. You will find me in the English Heritage tent down on the battlefield.

I'm also going to the Bristol Festival of Literature on October 20th. Details will be on the main Blog mentioned above as soon as I get them - hopefully while I'm at the HNS Conference.

Another exciting thing to mention: Ripples In The Sand is almost ready, I am about to send the finished MS off to SilverWood Books. Yes, we still use old-fashioned terms like manuscript, even though everything is done with digital files now. So, once it's typeset and proof-read we'll have launch day! I am hoping for mid-November, but maybe Jesamiah's birthday of 4th December would be a good date to aim for.

I must admit to feeling at times that Ripples was never going to get written - but I've finished it, and the feedback from my "honest readers" has been positive, so I'm heartened and reinvigorated for this fourth Sea Witch Voyage.

For the last few weeks I have been somewhat diverted from writing novels; helping to organise Conferences, reviewing historical fiction, keeping up with Facebook and Twitter etc. My husband recently had a lucky, unexpected and exciting windfall, the sort of thing that is very much life-changing. In consequence, we are now able to move away from London and look forward to a more leisurely lifestyle in the country. A further distraction from the hurly-burly of everyday life therefore as we begin house-hunting. The hope is that we can move into a nice property with a few acres of land and some stables. Oh, the bliss of not having to drive to get to a livery yard to do the horses! My dream, since I was about thirteen years old, was to write a book and be able to look out of my bedroom window at my horses in my field.

Well, Phase One has been completed - onwards to Phase Two!

The quote which accompanies this journal entry was chosen for a reason. The Battle of Hastings re-enactment, mentioned above, is the "big" event this year, a special weekend with more re-enactors than usual. The "Big One" happens every six years, primarily to mark the occasion of the actual battle date, allowing for calendar changes, which is Saturday 14th October. This year, though, it's out of phase because 2012 is a leap year, so the 14th falls on the Sunday, but English Heritage decided to keep the six year tradition going. Good for them!

Came across the quote and was struck by its meaning for those of us who are devoted to the historical fall-out of the year 1066. There is much disagreement about who should or should not have won at Sendlach Hill - the Battle of Hastings. Those of us who think of Harold Godwineson as the rightful King (and for many of us, a hero) know him as the last English King to die defending his Kingdom from foreign invasion. Others think William of Normandy was the better soldier, and that he had the "right" to win.

Whatever personal thoughts you have on this, there is no doubting that these two men were incredible people. Both were determined, loyal to their followers, good soldiers and commanders, and equally intent on their purpose.

"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." We do not know which of the two were right, but we are the ones who are left - whether we are descended from the pre-English "Britons", the Anglo-Saxons, or the Normans, or any other now indigenous people of Great Britain. And, I think, here in the UK we all have one thing in common: We are proud to have the heritage bequeathed to us through the centuries of history.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"War does not determine who is right - only who is left."
 

November
  2012

The British are often accused of always talking about the weather. I think this year we have been justified in mentioning the topic a few times. A hosepipe ban was enforced in April because of a water shortage. A few days later it started raining. Since then, it seems that someone Upstairs has forgotten to turn the tap off!

I mention the weather here for two reasons.

For a couple of years now I have kept a weather diary, the idea being to create a reference log for weather patterns - primarily for my writing. It is, after all, boring to read in a novel of "louring slate-grey skies" or "a sky as blue as a robin's egg". With a weather diary (that has a few added extras such as which plants are in flower) all I need do, when stuck for something descriptive to say, is look in my diary.

For the last twelve months my jottings were complemented by two friends; Cathy Helms of North Carolina and Deborah Cater who resides in Spain. It has been most interesting comparing the weather from the three places, the different climates and daily activities. There are also, I must add, some fabulous photographs included in some of the entries!

All good things must come to an end, however. As we are all busy people I've decided to close further additions to the diary, but it will always be available for readers (and writers) to browse and use as required. My thanks to Cathy and Debbie for their contributions.

The second mention relates to the Battle of Hastings re-enactment. Or rather the non-battle. Rain stopped play. On the Saturday it rained, the sun came out, it rained again, the sun came out again. this was repeated all day, and by rain I mean it poured bucket-loads. The ground was already wet and muddy, by mid-afternoon even wellies or big boots were not much use. English Heritage made the brave decision to cancel the Sunday performance and heroically, the staff moved what they could up to the higher, drier levels and made entrance free, so at least the trade stalls could salvage something, and several of the re-enactors were on hand to do impromptu displays etc. The weekend was not lost - in fact it was rather fun, but I can't help thinking: if only it had rained in 1066 the Normans would never have got up that hill for a third time, maybe not even a second. Therefore the English would have won.

Before my jaunt to Battle in Sussex I met so many wonderful people at the Historical Novel Conference in London - my apologies I can't remember who you all were. Many visitors to our "Indie" stall signed my visitors book: I'll get round to e-mailing you all as soon as possible.

A few days after Battle I met with a wonderful group of people who came to Waltham Abbey as part of a long tour of various historical UK places: Paula and Barbara from Australia, Lisa from Texas, Emilie and Diane from Canada and John from Essex, England. I was not able, personally, to take them on a guided tour (I guessed in advance that my dodgy hip would be protesting after the previous weekends of standing, walking, lugging suitcases etc) so Tricia Gurnett from Waltham Abbey's King Harold Day did the honours. We had lunch together afterwards, but all too soon everyone had to get back to London for the next leg of their tour. I wish I'd had more time to chat to you all.

I was presented with a fabulous, specially designed Australian Fan Club Tee Shirt which will remain as a treasured memory of such lovely people and a great day out. Thank you everyone!


And still the adventures came...

I spent a couple of nice days at the Bristol Literary Festival with Helen Hart of SilverWood Books, Lucienne Boyce and Jenny Barden talking to an interested group about publishing and writing historical fiction - and my thanks to Nigel for the pleasant company on the train down. A tedious journey made most delightful. The Friday evening saw me attending the launch of Debbie Young's Sell Your Books - a useful guide to marketing, especially for the Indie Writer, followed by a delicious dinner at a local Italian restaurant.

The last week in October found daughter Kathy and myself in Devon with presenter Jonnie Irwin and a TV filmcrew house hunting courtesy of Escape To The Country.

We had such fun - if a little tedious regarding the waiting around for changes of camera shot/angle etc and the repeated making it look like we'd just entered the kitchen/lounge/bedroom/bathroom but had in fact already done so several times. Needs must for filming though! Basically, on these sort of shows, every time you see a different camera shot the camera has been moved and the people involved have had to walk in/out for a new "take". It doesn't leave a lot of time for actual house viewing. Still, we had a thrilling few days - and we think we found a house.

Keep an eye on my main Blog for more detailed "reports" of all these adventures - I'll get round to writing them one day soon! (promise)

Finally - I have made a decision about the novel I am to write next: I'm going with my Arthurian spin-off Madoc the Horseman, a brief taster of which is on my exclusive H2U pages - which you can reach by signing up here.

Jesamiah fans, don't worry, there will be further adventures for him, but this time round I'm rather looking forward to getting to know Madoc - and indulging my love of horses.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"There is just as much horse sense as ever... but the horses have most of it."
 

December
  2012

As I write this more rain is falling by the bucket-load, but I'm not going to talk about that, although my sympathies go to those who have been flooded out, sometimes not for the first time this year.

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, my daughter and I spent a few days in Devon house-hunting with a TV programme called Escape to the Country. Well, the hunt is over, we have found a house, I put in an offer and we have now exchanged contracts. We move in the New Year. I am not mentioning the name of the house in public, probably not wise to give out my new address on the Internet, but I would like to keep a diary of my new life in the Devonshire Countryside, so I've opened a new blog called Leaning On The Gate, an apt title because I rather suspect I shall be doing quite a bit of leaning on various gates.

Rather than give the name of our new home away, I have made one up - Windfall Farm - appropriate as we acquired it through the good fortune of a modest and somewhat unexpected windfall.

The thought of moving is nerve-wracking, this will be an entire new life for me, Ron, and Kathy, a big step made with big decisions. There will be new and different things to get used to. The village is about a mile away along a private lane for one, the darkness for another. No street lights. The noise! We will be substituting London Traffic for bleating sheep, rutting red deer, owls hooting. And the traffic itself? I expect the occasional tractor might cause a bit of a delay in the lane.

I think all those are tolerable though. The only thing I am not sure of are the spiders which reside in the well-house (yes we will have our own water supply from a well). I intend to stay away from them. I have two theories as to why so many people are afraid of spiders. One, the obvious one, is that it is inbred into our natural reactions that they are dangerous. Here in the UK we do not have poisonous spiders, but most other countries do - and highly deadly ones at that. Ergo, it makes sense to be scared of the eight-legged zoomers. My other theory is more fanciful, but preferable.

They are aliens. 'Nuff said.

The garden here at 'home' - my present London home that is - was full of spiders during the autumn, at times their webs were almost like high rise flats, built one above the other and suspended from suitable supports (like the hedge in the front garden - their webs strung across the gap of the front gate.) What amazed me was the speed at which the spiders spin. I could clear a web as I went down the garden path, waving a stick in front of me for that purpose, feed the chickens and clear out their run - only to find the web had been re-spun by the time I came up the garden again.

The last of my cucumbers were left to wither in the greenhouse on account of not wanting to run the gauntlet of Lurking Spiders.

So, I'm glad we're getting professional removal men in. They can clear the garden furniture from the shed. I'm not touching it!

As it is the end of the year I have a few thank you's to make to my 'behind the scenes' team, namely my graphics designer Cathy Helms who provides me with my beautiful home page designs, various graphic images for Facebook, and all my graphic art. And to my webmaster who I know prefers to remain anonymous.

Most of my e-mails and messages concern my books, but I received one the other day regarding this website: ".your entire site surpasses most. Kudos to your web design team." I agree wholeheartedly, so thank you to Cathy and 'Webmaster' for your hard work, support - and friendship.

Season's Greetings to all who visit, and I hope, enjoy, my website and my monthly newsletter. Don't forget to subscribe to my special 'exclusive' H2U page for all updates and some extra items of interest; you'll find a subscription link on the Home page and on the menu bar at the top of each page under the Site Map button.

May many candles light your path, and good fortune follow your shadow.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


"It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness."