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Thinking about the past

Depending on your definition, I have written a number of historical novels. Portland Place and Wachusett are set in the 19th century. Lost Lady is set in the 1920s, and Nantucket Summer and The Countess Comes Home are set in late 1960s and early 70s.

While I would not have considered the 1920s to be a historical novel setting because it's the time when my parents were growing up, it is now a hundred years ago. As for the 60s and early 70s, as far as today's youth is concerned, that was shortly after the Jurassic period.

What writing these books has meant - and I never set out to be an historical novelist - is that I spent a lot of time looking into daily life in the periods covered. Finding out what people ate at a mountain resort hotel in 1876, or how they lit their rooms was fascinating, and not easy to discover. Fortunately, today there are some wonderful resources for historical novelists on the web and this information can be winkled out.

Another unexpected source was eBay. …
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On Friday evening, I uploaded Ardmore Endings to Amazon/Kindle. On Saturday morning, I had a notification that the formatting was correct and the book was now available.

I immediately ordered several copies for friends and for myself.

My copy was delivered just after 1200 on Sunday.

Never mind that this was the weekend, it was less than 48 hours from uploading a pdf to receiving a 330-page, 6 x 9-inch book with a colour cover.

Poor Gutenberg had to reset the Bible four times before he was able to print it. Then again, he didn't have to write it.

If anyone doubts digital printing (and allegedly, Amazon uses HP Indigo presses), examples such as this should dispel all doubts. The binding is sound, the ink is black (not the grey one too often finds in cheap paperbacks), and the edges are sharply cut.

This is not just the digital press, but the result of a whole automated production workflow.

My pdf file went to a Cloud server and a notification was sent to the printer nearest the addresses t…

Another Genre-buster

As of 20 February, Ardmore Endings is now finished, proofed and checked. The cover is being designed and the book should be available by the end of the month.

This novel - my tenth - is not like any of my other books in plot or setting. At best, it can be called a psychological novel, but it has elements of family saga, mystery and buildungsroman. It explores motivation, secrets and lies, and the concepts of chaos and the desire for order.

Genres are a useful shorthand for categorising things, but too many writers are expected not only to follow certain genres, but to obey their "rules." Writing in a tradition provides a structure and format that can assist with writing a novel. There are excellent models to follow. The down side is that breaking free of the mould can be difficult. It can be done with comedy (Murder by Death, The Cheap Detective, and others), but one runs the risk of offending readers and critics. There are also the shackles of expectation and conformity. A A …

Lost Lady wins Chill with a Book Readers' Award

Lost Ladyhas won a Chill with a Book Readers' Award for Indie writers.

My thanks to Pauline and the judges!

Writing can be a lonely business. Often family and friends have little interest in what you write which can be hard to understand. This is why people and organisations who support Indie writers and self-publishers are so important in our community.

We need some objectivity in the criticism of our work; only with that are we capable of improving, and their readiness to provide it is most welcome.

Oh dear, it's 2020

Another year. Another decade.

My first official business will be to start filing my FBAR (FUBAR?)submission to the IRS. This is the form that expats need to fill in giving the name, addresses, numbers and the maximum amount of money in each bank account held outside the US. It's a pain in the butt because it's not easy with online accounts to find the highest amount. In my case, it's usually the same money that's counted three or four times. I get paid into one account, move the money to another one with free transfers to European banks, and move it. The same hundred bucks looks like three hundred.

If I wanted to move it to a US bank, it would cost £25.00 here and $17.00 there. Go figure.

FBAR aside, The Rock Pool is now available in both paperback and Kindle formats. Use your Christmas Amazon vouchers to get a copy.

I'm currently reading Richard Freeman's Atlantic Nightmare, the history of the Battle of the Atlantic. It has led me to resume research on Convoy NA-2…

Was Scrooge Conned?

It would be interesting to trace the tradition of the Christmas ghost story beyond the superficial (see below). I am sure it is related to the darkness and cold of the year and people huddled around a fire for comfort and warmth, but the association with Christmas and ghosts is incongruous - or is it?

Yes, there were pagan mid-winter feasts, but it's hard to see why they would emerge in the 18th and 19th centuries when ghost stories rose in popularity. Dickens is, of course, associated with the genre and wrote the quintessential Christmas ghost story.

Ironically, given its Christmas theme, God barely gets a look in in A Christmas Carol. There are only a dozen mentions of God - mostly in passing "God bless you"s or the singing of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen. There is no mention of Christ, Jesus, or Saviour, and no one is seen going to church.

So, what we have is a ghost story trading on a secular commercial Christmas so that Dickens and his publisher can sell a few extra co…


Around 21 September when Lost Lady was published, I ordered FIVE author's copies.

While waiting for them, friends had bought copies and were writing with comments and questions and talking about the cover, and I hadn't seen it yet!

Yesterday, when my copies were finally due to be delivered, I had a message from Amazon saying that the box (printed in Germany) had been damaged and they were refunding my money. It obviously never occurred to the wizards at Amazon that I might actually want the copies, but no option was given.

In desperation to see the book, I ordered one copy at retail rates today (12 October) and was notified that it would be delivered Monday (14 October). Presumably, that will be printed in the UK - so why weren't my author's copies?

Maybe they will be after Brexit - if there is an after Brexit.