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An FAQ of sorts

I ought to do “Author’s Notes” in the books but I never quite seem to get round to it. So here are some brief thoughts on a couple of the things that I keep being asked about…

Language

Authentically “Edwardian” language sounds stilted to our modern ears. In very early drafts, I tried to replicate it as precisely as I could but it just read like a parody, so I abandoned that and opted instead for more modern speech patterns but with authentic slang wherever possible.

My main source for slang is A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English by John S Farmer and W E Henley. Published in 1905, it’s a valuable resource when checking that slang words were in use in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s also handy for discovering “new” words.

I also check the age of idioms. A quick search of online dictionaries is often enough, but I find the Google Ngram Viewer invaluable. Enter a word or short phrase and it will chart the frequency of its occurrences over time in books stored by Google. Neither method is infallible, but they help to avoid the more jarring anachronisms.

For the most part, the stories are set in the English “West Country”, specifically an area a few miles north of the city of Bristol. The speech patterns of the working class locals are modelled on modern Bristolian and Gloucestershire speech but with old slang thrown in. These characters have caused quite a bit of confusion among those not familiar with the way they speaks down y’ere (someone once wondered if I’d accidentally slipped into Australian) but I’ve double-checked with a few of my local-born friends and they assure me that it’s accurate enough to pass muster.

Then, as now, the British upper classes swore like sailors. An obsession with avoiding “four-letter words” was (and still is) considered to be frightfully drab and middle class. Nevertheless, in order to fit the cozy genre I made a decision from the start to avoid swearing in the same way that I avoid mentioning sex and gore. Sometimes Lady Hardcastle’s reactions may seem a little tame, but rest assured that in reality she’s turning the air blue.

Class Barriers

I’ve been challenged on the overly familiar relationship between Lady Hardcastle and Florence Armstrong. A lady and her maid wouldn’t be allowed to be friends and would never speak to each other like that. No, that’s exactly right. Under the strict social rules of victorian and Edwardian England, employer and servant could be friendly, but they could never be friends.

But it’s also exactly the point. As I said here, the characters came from an earlier project where I intended to explore the idea that under conditions of extreme stress and danger, artificial class barriers would break down and employer and servant might well become genuine friends. Although I no longer delve so fully into all that (their early lives are now only alluded to in passing comments), Lady Hardcastle and Flo have experienced a great deal of danger in situations where they relied on each other for their very survival. They return to England in 1901 after more than two years of living on their wits and find a world which now slightly bemuses them. They understand the rules and stick to them in public for the sake of propriety, but they no longer feel bound to them in private.

More

I might add to this post as things occur to me, but that’ll do for now.

The Perils of Social Media – or how I got a publishing contract ages ago and forgot to tell you

As a self-published author, I was told it was essential that I “…maintain an active social media presence. Oh, and a blog.” So I did. Sort of.

I set up this site (powered by WordPress because I couldn’t raise the enthusiasm to design a “proper” website, nor the money to get someone to do it for me). I set up an “author” page on Facebook. I started a new Twitter account. I even opened an Instagram page, though I’ve no clear idea why.

And then I realized that I had to maintain four separate things. I know I can link them and cross-post stuff, but that’s not entirely satisfactory. Each requires its own approach. Twitter is snappy and (at its best) amusing. Facebook is chummy. A blog is thoughtful and rambly. Instagram is for pictures from my phone (though I do go to the trouble of loading pics from my camera onto my phone and then posting those – if I post anything at all). Cross-posting is a rubbish idea.

But this leads to a problem.

I’ve been a semi-enthusiastic Facebook user since 2007 (apparently – that’s what it says on my profile). I discovered Twitter a little while later but I’ve never really taken to it. Blogs… yeah, blogs. I’ve never kept a diary and I’ve never been entirely convinced that anyone anywhere cares what I think about anything. Instagram… I mostly take pictures of garden wildlife.

Of the lot, then, Facebook suits me best and I tend to drop titbits of info there when they occur to me. And that seems to work ok, except that the other places sometimes get left out.

Take this blog, for instance. The last thing on here was a bit of wibble in January announcing the release of the paperback version of The Spirit Is Willing. Nice, but… I mean… January.

So the blog, the place where it’s possible to write proper explanations of stuff, where I can muse and ponder and wibble to my heart’s content, contains nothing about the new book, nor the new publishing deal that goes with it.

So, then.

At the very end of November 2015, I was contacted by an editor at Amazon Publishing. She was enjoying the Lady Hardcastle books and could we talk. We talked. She asked to see what I’d already written for Book 3. I sent it to her. We talked some more. I was offered a publishing contract. Hurrah, etc.

Time passes…

I spent the last few months doing some hefty re-writing on Books 1 & 2, turning them from collections of four, linked stories into single narratives (novels, if you will). They will be relaunched in the autumn (2016). They’re the same, but different (better, I hope).

Right now (obviously not right now – I’m writing this blog entry) I’m working on Book 3 which will be published next spring (2017). This is brand new, conceived as a full-length story from the outset, full of country houses, racing cars and murders. And Lady Hardcastle and Flo doing their thing, obviously, because that’s what it’s all about.

I’ve known all this for some time, and I’ve mentioned it on Facebook, but I’ve never written about it here. Now I have.

I can’t guarantee that I’ll be more diligent in my future blogging, but I’ll certainly try.

Paperback writer… part 2

Thanks to some amazing design work by the extremely brilliant Boost Multimedia, I’ve re-issued the paperback version of A Quiet Life in the Country and launched a paperback version of The Spirit Is Willing. (The link is to the Amazon.com page, but you know how to get to your local site from there, you’re brilliant. Also, I’ve not linked to the Quiet Life… paperback because the system hasn’t caught up yet and it’s still showing the old cover – the new one looks like this.)

There’s more (extremely exciting) news to come, but I realized I was way behind on mentioning the paperbacks so that’ll have to wait a tiny bit.

Cheerio for now.

More pen news…

Some while ago, I wrote at tedious length about how much I admire J. Herbin inks. I also mentioned that the reason I’d discovered these classic French inks was that I’d recently bought myself a new fountain pen. It was made by Parker, the maker of the pens of my youth, and it was rather smart and modern.

I lost it.

No idea how it happened, but the pen is lost and gone forever. In July I replaced it, this time with a Cross Apogee which looks and feels much more like a classic fountain pen such as one might imagine a proper writer using. My writing still looked awful, but I looked so much more suave and sophisticated while I was using it (I’ve tried, incidentally, to alter my handwriting to a more “printed” style to see if that can get rid of the scrawly nature of the handwriting I was taught at school – the jury’s still out on that one).

By now, I have a collection of eleven bottles of J. Herbin’s finest, including Bouton d’or (the French word for the flower we know as the “buttercup”), a shade of yellow so delicate that the ink itself is clear and is almost unreadable on white paper. Guess what my pen has been loaded with for the past month? Perle noire. Black.

I’m sure there was a point to all this when I started, but I’m beggared if I can think of it now. Probably something to do with needing to change the ink in my pen and a vague desire to actually write something in the blog.

That was probably it.

May I present to you…

…Book 2.

At long last the writing (and a fair amount of rewriting) is done, and The Spirit Is Willing has hit the virtual shelves.

It’s available at Amazon as usual (that link is to the .com (US) store, but it’s on sale at all of them).

More news soon, and then it’s onwards to Book 3.

cheerio for now

T

Wait, what? I have a blog?

Massive apologies. I was reminded the other day that I have a blog and I’ve not been keeping it up to date. I posted some news on Facebook, and felt very pleased with myself, but completely forgot to post the same news here. D’oh.

Despite the distractions of Real Life & The Day Job ®, The Spirit Is Willing progresses apace and I’m aiming to publish by 5 July at the latest. Obviously things can still go horribly wrong, but that’s the latest plan.

Update – a lot of unplanned things happened and I missed the self-imposed deadline. But here’s the latest news:

The final draft is done, but there’s still editing to do. I shall be working on that over the next couple of weeks and The Spirit Is Willing will be published on Sunday, 26 July.

Sorry for the delays.

Paperback Writer

Just a quickie.

Thanks to the magic of CreateSpace there’s now a paperback version of A Quiet Life in the CountryIt’s only available in the US and the EU, but… you know… it’s an actual book. Printed on actual paper.

Right, well I’m off to change the ink in my pen.

 

 

A Quiet Life in the Country is also available on Kindle through the Amazon Kindle store at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon US

It’s at all the other Amazon Kindle stores, too, and the ASIN is B00O6X5U7K


 

Just an Inkling

The second volume of Lady Hardcastle’s adventures, The Spirit Is Willing, continues apace (well, at a slightly reduced pace, actually – progress hasn’t been nearly so swift as I had hoped, though I’m still more or less on target for a May launch).

User reviews of A Quiet Life… have been entirely positive so far and I’ve been surprised and delighted by the reaction from friends. I was a little self conscious about the whole thing at first and hadn’t actually intended to reveal that I’d written it. But I’m glad I did – it turns out that a lot of them like it (or are at least polite enough to pretend that they do).

But that’s not what’s moved me to write this.

I am left-handed. Like many left-handed children, I struggled with the arcane art of handwriting. Western writing, like much in Western culture, is a dextrocentric craft whose successful practice very much favours the right-hander. The right-hander pulls the pen, their fingers guiding it gracefully to form the letters. The left-hander pushes the pen, clumsily wrestling it to make it go where they want, and never quite achieving the same elegance of form as their right-handed fellows. I found handwriting hard to master and I have never been proud of the results. I was delighted when text editing software came to the masses in the late-’80s and I was finally able to put aside my pens and get on with the serious business of writing.

But lately, I’ve had something of an epiphany. I’m more or less addicted to Moleskine notebooks where I keep my notes and a journal of sorts. I’ve tried a variety of pens and eventually settled on a ballpoint that I rather liked. On a whim, I bought an inexpensive fountain pen a few weeks ago, intending to do the full tweedy-writer thing and make my notes with a proper, grown-up’s pen.

But of course I was disappointed. Somehow, despite a lifetime of knowing better, I imagined that a “nice” pen would be “nice” to write with and would make my writing “nicer”. But it looked awful.

I began to wonder why it looked so dreadful and eventually decided that even though my own handwriting was mostly at fault, at least part of the blame must rest with the ink. The “washable blue” ink in the supplied cartridge was insipid and nasty and I began to look around for alternatives. Parker (for it is a Parker pen) has always been my pen maker of choice (is there a proper word for a pen maker, I wonder… oh, it seems to be “pen maker”, how disappointing). Parker famously makes Quink ink and I was reasonably sure that in my youth it had come in a variety of colours (I remember washable blue, blue-black, black, red, and green, at the very least). It’s not a glamorous ink but it had a nostalgic appeal as the ink of my childhood. But now the high street shops stock only black and blue. And I didn’t like the blue.

I looked around. We have plenty of ink in the house. I might not be a fountain pen user, but my family loves them and I discovered a stash of mostly Waterman inks in a variety of colours. I tried one. It was much better than Quink.

But then I went online and found inky heaven. In 1670 a French sailor by the name of J. Herbin (my perfunctory research hasn’t established what the J stood for, though I suspect Jean) began producing ink in Paris. And the family company still makes ink today. And it’s superbe. The colour selection is impressive, but there’s something about the way the inks make me write that has a magic far beyond mere pigment. The “Perle Noire”, for instance, (surely Jack Sparrow’s ink of choice) is just a black ink. And yet somehow it magically isn’t. It’s probably just the romance of a 30ml bottle with a pen rest on it, made by a 344-year-old Parisian company, but when I scrawl my notes in it, it’s like there’s actual history coming out of the pen. A journal entry about book sales and the progress of the latest scene written in “Orange Indien” has life and vibrancy beyond the mere dusty orange of the ink itself, while a projected writing schedule in “Lierre Sauvage” isn’t just green, it’s like there’s actual wild ivy growing on the page.

So now, 40 years since I first wrote with a fountain pen, I finally get what all the fuss is about. Apparently, all you need is a decent ink.

 

 

A Quiet Life in the Country is available exclusively on Kindle through the Amazon Kindle store at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon US

It’s at all the other Amazon Kindle stores, too, and the ASIN is B00O6X5U7K


 

An Author Has to Have a Hobby

The book went on sale last Sunday afternoon and sales – as I thought they would be – were slow. No one knows me, and A Quiet Life… is my first book, so of course things were going to start slowly.

But I had a secret weapon.

The book is published exclusively through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), an Amazon service which makes publishing your own books really surprisingly simple. One of the options they offer is KDP Select, and one of the things that you can do if you sign up for that is to offer your book for limited periods for free. Now it seems counter-intuitive to offer something for free after you’ve realized that by self-publishing a book you might actually have hit upon one of the only hobbies that makes a profit, but if you pause for a few moments longer, you realize it’s a surprisingly brilliant plan.

What I needed was for people to find my book. I was quietly confident that a small proportion of them would quite like it, and if I could only get them reading it, I might be able to get them on my side. Once they were T E Kinsey readers, they might be keen to buy the second book (which should be out next summer) and my hobby would be self-financing. So offering the book for free on a time-limited promotion is far less stupid than it first appears. Free offer -> more readers -> more people who quite like what you do -> one or two positive reviews -> more readers, etc. I’m sure I should draw one of those business flywheel things at this point.

There was only one downside.

The free promotion began at around midnight PST On Saturday (today) so for me it kicked in at 8am. I saw the price change to £0.00 at around 8.45 (they do say there’ll be some lag). So from 8.45 this morning I have been obsessively refreshing the sales dashboard and watching the free downloads tick upwards. It’s an addiction.

Downloads have been pretty evenly split between the UK and US sites, but there were some from Germany and even one from Japan. I know this because it’s possible to filter the sales figures by marketplace. And I did. A lot.

I had fully intended to put in some serious work on the first story in Book 2 (the book will be called The Spirit Is Willing) but all my free time has been taken up with refreshing the dashboard page and seeing how many more copies have been downloaded.

If you’re one of those downloaders, thank you for giving it a try and I do very much hope you enjoy the book.

 

 

A Quiet Life in the Country is available exclusively on Kindle through the Amazon Kindle store at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon US

It’s at all the other Amazon Kindle stores, too, and the ASIN is B00O6X5U7K



 

Publish and be… damned pleased

After seven months of planning, writing and editing, I just took the plunge and clicked on “save and publish” on the first book’s Kindle Direct Publishing page.

I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that it’s ready and I’ll probably always think there’s more to do, more to improve, more to tweak, but I’m actually surprisingly pleased with the results. I passed through the “Oh no, this is rubbish, what on earth am I doing” phase some time in May, so at least that didn’t hold things up. And now that everything’s done, I’m just impatient to see what people think of it.

A Quiet Life in the Country is available exclusively on Kindle through the Amazon Kindle store at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon US

It’s at all the other Amazon Kindle stores, too, and the ASIN is B00O6X5U7K

I’d better start work on the next book.