Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Strategy for 2010

My wish came true and the snow did last until Christmas, but it caused havoc countrywide and a present I ordered almost didn't make it. Now we are back to cold wind and relentless rain, all the
hallmarks of an English January.

As with many of my writing friends, we hope for new things in the publishing world in 2010, like book contracts for us all and a resurgence of Historical Fiction enthusiasts.

One message which dropped into my inbox was for a critique partner linking me to an article entitled: The key to literary success? Be a man -- or write like one, in the Washington Post by author Julianna Baggott. It begins with the words:

This fall, Publishers Weekly named the top 100 books of 2009. How many female writers were in the top 10? Zero. How many on the entire list? Twenty-nine.


I almost didn't read any further, I mean January is the most depressing month of the year, who needs further bad news for wannabee mainstream authors?

I'm not discouraged though, well not entirely. In 2010, I am going to concentrate on my 17th Century novel about Elizabeth Murray and try to make it the best story I can. The writing rules will receive due attention but I shan't be a slave to them. The story's the thing.

For those who would like to comment, and I love receiving them - please do and accept my apologies for the verification thingy. My blog was highjacked on Christmas Day and someone entered ten comments for every post full of sales junk! Do these idiots really think they are going to sell anything this way?

Friday, 18 December 2009

White Christmas in England?

I know I am being a little kid, but I just love the idea of a White Christmas and this morning, we
woke up to the closest I can remember to it - ever. We are twenty miles from London here, the commuters are moaning and lots of schools are closed, the doom and gloom boys are in full swing with dire warnings about 'elf and safety' - but I for one hope it lasts until Christmas Day.

Global warming? What Global Warming?

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Deer Tax

Being born and bred in England, I find the most fascinating historical snippets appear out of nowhere, and here's one that was mentioned on the news this morning.

Bushey Park, which lies north of Hampton Court Palace, near Richmond has been settled for at least 4,000 years. A Bronze Age barrow, a burial mound and clear remains of medieval settlements were excavated there.

Henry VIII had the parkland walled in to improve his chances of catching the red and fallow deer who lived there, and who were still hunted into the 18th century. To protect his interests, anyone living or working near the park walls were charged an annual 'Deer Tax' to compensate the king for any deer who might escape over the wall.

Interesting history? Maybe so, but this news article stated that a local photographer whose business premises attach to this wall - is still paying it at a current annual rate of £1400!
He is now appealing this ancient decree, but what amazes me is how the Council can still insist he pays this ludicrous and unfair levy when the poor guy is paying Council Tax at business rates, which are certainly not insubstantial in this part of London.

Should any deer happen to leap over his wall, and according to a local they would have to be 'bionic deer' to manage it, surely his Council Tax should cover it? I wonder if the Queen knows about this? Does she still collect deer from Bushy Park?

The beautiful photo of a deer in Bushy Park was taken by Richard Peters

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Who Wants To Be Famous?

Jeffrey Archer has been reputedly offered an £18m advance for a five book deal over five years destined to be 'The Next Forsyte Saga' - what was wrong with the old one is what I want to know. Although the managing director of his publisher Macmillan, said there was “no substance whatsoever” in the figure. Well, in the words of Mandy Rice-Davies, 'He would, wouldn't he?' Even so, I'll bet it's pretty substantial.

I certainly don't aspire to that kind of fame, nor do I envy Archer, who is going to be under severe pressure to perform - mind you, a million of that advance would buy him a more than competent ghost writer - and the British public probably won't care as long as his name is on the cover.

I don't aspire to any of that media circus stuff Archer and his 'celebrity' contemporaries revel in either. What I would really like, is to see a story of mine - or two, sitting on a bookshelf in a mainstream store. Maybe a small pile in a window display would be nice, even a discrete book signing one afternoon accompanied by good coffee and muffins. I would like my stories to be picked up by Historical Fiction readers to enjoy as a temporary escape into a totally different world, a world where my characters stay with them long after they put the book down.

It would be nice, too, if they recommend it to their friends and family, and then the next time they are in the bookshop, maybe, just maybe they will ask the assistant if they can pre-order my next book!

You can keep the media circus, the international book tour with a spot on Oprah, Good Morning, [UK and USA versions] the five minute giggle session on Loose Women where we discuss where I get my nails done and don't mention the book at all. Not to mention the guest appearance on 'Have I Got News For You', where Paul Merton keeps giving me odd sideways looks as if he cannot figure for the life of him why I am there because I'm not a bit funny.

My motives are far humbler, and hopefully achieveable. Perhaps my next wip will be the one?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

We'll Always Need Books - Won't We?

It's always been my ambition, well, since I started writing that is, to see a paperback with my name on the cover sitting on the shelves of a leading high street bookshop. With Borders UK announcing the shutting down of forty five stores last week, that goal appears to have slipped a little further into the mists of delusion. The good news is that Waterstones is interested in buying the shops - possibly.

Undaunted though, I will keep writing, because as everyone tells me, the economic climate won't always be on the downturn and the demand for books is bound to rise like everything else. I'm not sure what others think, but I have found the bookstore shelves sadly lacking new content over the last few months. As a reader I find this disappointing, aa although cinema and theatre going, attendance in restaurants etc has diminished, I am sure I cannot be alone in that book buying is still a major leisure activity.

Here's hoping 2010 will be a better year for writers, and readers.