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Cover sneak peek

The cover of my new, soon-to-be self-published Christmas novella is ready, and you lovely people who subscribe to my blog are the first to see it. I’ll also be sending it out to the newsletter subscribers.
And after that social media.

But you’re the first.

I’m really happy with it.

What do you think?

I’ll be talking more about the story later.

And putting up links for where you can buy it. 

I’m still on the learning curve with self-publishing, so I appreciate your patience.

Giving up on the news

A while ago I stopped reading or watching the news every day. It used to be my habit to start the day with a cup of coffee and the news, but gradually I started to realize that all it did was leave me depressed and frustrated about things I couldn’t change. 

So I did what to my family and friends was the unthinkable, and went cold turkey on the news.

And it made such a difference to my day.  I still had my morning habit to appease, so I’ve been finding blogs to read instead that are interesting and relevant and yet don’t bring me down.

I’m not saying I’ve stuck my head in the sand — I still end up keeping abreast of current affairs — things filter through anyway, and my friends like to talk about the state of the world, and sometimes I hear something and will look up more about it — but it’s no longer part of my morning ritual, and I feel happier for it.

This is one of the blogs I subscribe to. It has articles from all over the world, often quirky and interesting little stories. Here, for instance is one about the “floating gardens” of Amiens in France.  It’s a lovely article about how for hundreds of years, the marshy land near Amiens has been turned into agricultural land surrounded by canals. Here’s a photo (by VASSILCC-BY-3.0)

Now I’ve heard of the town of Amiens, but only because there was a short-lived Peace of Amiens in the middle of the Napoleonic wars. 

When the Peace was signed (1802) people in the UK thought the war was all over, and would-be travelers, starved of foreign travel, first because of The French Revolution and then the rise of Napoleon, headed for Paris and the Continent to begin their Grand Tour. But it soon became clear that the treaty was not being honored by either side — Britain insisted Napoleon was using the peace to reorganize his control of Europe and prepare for war, but they were also breaking the agreement. By 1803 the war was on again. Some tourists were trapped, some fled and escaped, others were interned or required to give their parole.

I used this situation as the background for my second novel — Tallie’s Knight. In it, Tallie, who was more or less ‘annexed’ by Magnus, the Earl of D’Arenville in a convenient marriage, ends up agreeing to the marriage, but only if she can go on the Grand Tour for their honeymoon. So off they go — but when they reached Italy, they heard that Napoleon’s troops had invaded the Piedmont, and so they had to flee. . . 

So now, thanks to this blog I know two things about Amiens, and one day I hope to visit their beautiful floating gardens. And isn’t that thought so much better than dwelling on depressing news?

When I first called myself a writer

When did you first call yourself a writer?

On the Word Wenches blog (where I blog every fortnight) Mary Jo Putney wrote this piece about how she became a writer.

And it started me wondering about when I first thought of myself as a writer. I’ve written all my life — letters, silly poems (that I called pomes), short stories, songs etc, and things for school — short plays and skits for kids (and teachers) to perform. But it never occurred to me to write books, because somewhere in my childhood I’d decided books were written by rare and wonderful creatures that lived in a magic land — or something. (Photo by my friend Fiona McArthur)

And then I started working with a guy who turned out to be a newly published writer, and I thought Huh! Well, he’s no unicorn. And I read his book, and thought, huh, maybe I could do that. 

It got me thinking seriously about writing for publication. The following year, I went backpacking around the world on my own and, being alone and often in countries where I didn’t speak the language, I found stories spinning in my head. So I bought a notebook and started writing them down.

I came home at the end of the year with a number of filled notebooks, full of ideas, stories and scraps and at least one novel — and a determination to seriously pursue a writing career. Even then, I might never have prepared anything to send to a publisher — I never learned to type and that seemed like a real barrier — except that a friend sent her little Macintosh computer for me to “mind” while she was away. 

The idea was that I would learn to use it — me, the luddite! But I kept getting post cards from her mentioning the computer and asking how I was going with it. So it was pure “fear of embarrassment” that caused me to haul it out of the box, set it up and start poking around. And it turned out to be amazingly user friendly and intuitive, so that even a computer-resistant person like me could use it with ease!

So I bought a Mac and started seriously writing for publication. (Though I never did type up any of those stories in the notebooks.) I loved that I could make typos, and then fix them without retyping a whole page, or having pages heavily weighted with white-out. It was magic.

In those days, I never called myself ‘a writer’, even though I was writing a lot, because a writer is a job, not just an activity. After all, I clean and garden and cook, but I don’t call myself a cleaner or a gardener or a cook. 

But also I was a bit shy about telling people what I was doing. I mean, if you say “I’m writing a book,” from then on they will ask you about it, and after a while it will become “Haven’t you finished that book yet?” or “When are we going to be able to read it?” As if rejections weren’t a normal part of most journeys to publication.

And there’s this line in a Yeats poem: “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” But some people tread happily wearing hob-nailed boots.

So I waited until I was published. And once I started calling myself a writer, the questions from non-friends went like this: “You’re a writer eh? So have you ever been published?” Said in the kind of cynical voice where the subtext is “How pretentious, to call yourself a writer,” and the expectation is a shamed admission that no I haven’t been published.

But then when I said I had been published, the next question was, “Will I have heard of you?” 
Probably not. 
“So what do you write, then?”

And when I said I wrote romance, the reaction was “Oh right, so you got the formula” — the subtext being I wasn’t a real writer. And there was never any point in explaining that there was no more a formula for romance than there was for crime novels — although I did try — because they simply didn’t believe it. I was just trying to pretend I was a real writer.

I’ve had more than 20 books published now, with translations into eighteen other languages, and I’ve made my living solely from my writing for years now, but some people still ask me, “When are you going to write a real book?”

But I don’t care any more. I write real books for real people and I love what I do and I have a host of romance-writing (and other genre-writing) friends and so who cares what other people think?

And I still write in notebooks a lot, and sometimes in cafes and libraries, though not looking quite so elegant as the woman in this picture.