Help, the garden is waking up…

… and I am nowhere near ready. Last week… and this week                     DSCN6993DSCN7026

I planned to do some radical mulching of my poor thin soil before the spring sprang. It should have been done in the autumn, but there was the small matter of publishing Border Line. The giant bag of mulch I have just ordered arrived at dawn, so I was directing operations in a dressing gown and wellington boots – not for the first time.                            DSCN6998DSCN7002                     All I need now is the time, the energy and some bearable weather conditions in order to spread joy among my flower and veg beds. I also need to dig out matted roots in the big Rhododendron pots and replace the soil, move a couple of roses, prune all the others, cut back cornus, raspberries, wisteria… etc etc

Unfortunately, I still haven’t finished the internal DIY. This should also have been done before Christmas (when I was publishing a book). So the dining room is full of tools and fleece liner, the spare bedroom is full of everything that has come out of our bedroom the box room and another room. I can’t progress here, because, although the plasterer came  IMG_0919  DSCN7016  a week ago the plaster is still drying in all three rooms. DSCN7014 DSCN7008Then there’s the greenhouse, new last spring, and not exactly justifying its presence. I managed to overwinter geraniums and sow some cut-and-come-again salad in November (which we ate on Boxing day) and is sort of still with us, but I need to get planting – now! And the vegetable plot which is… well embarrassing.


At least the garden is awash with fat buds, snowdrops and winter aconites.


Then there are exciting developments in my research on the letters to Far East POWs … I just need a ten-day week, and I’ll be fine.

Who do you write like?

On 29 December I was reading fellow-blogger Ann Koplow‘s post and was introduced to the website I Write Like.

Well I wasted (?) enjoyed (?) an hour of baffling fun. I took groups of paragraphs from different parts of my recent novel Border Line and apparently I write like:

H P Lovecraft – supernatural, extra terrestrial                                                                  Arthur Clarke – science fiction                                                                        Margaret Atwood – ?!                                                                                       James Joyce – double?!                                                                                     Arthur Clarke – perhaps this algorithm is on a loop

I put in a few paragraphs from my second novel, Unseen Unsung and I write like:

Anne Rice – vampire, Gothic fiction, Christian Literature, erotica                         H.G. Wells – science fiction                                                                                    Kurt Vonnegut – satire, gallows humour and science fiction again

And my first novel, A Small Rain and I write like:

H.P. Lovecraft – supernatural, extra terrestrial                                                      P.G. Woodhouse – out of left field

My unpublished non-fiction manuscript, Writing to a Ghost: Letters to the River Kwai 1941 to 1945 and I write like:

Arthur C Clarke – …what?

A short, short story, Barbed Wire, that I wrote in December on a course attached to the Reality Exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia. The story related to the painting by John Keane, The Inconveniences of History II and I write like:

Neil Gaiman – graphic novels, comic books

Let that be a lesson to me; narcissism just leads to confusion. Or possibly the statistical analysis tool needs some adjustment. I have read none of the works of these writers apart from Margaret Atwood and P.G. Woodhouse, but I am reasonably certain that neither my style, nor, for sure, my content, has any resemblance to theirs.

My 500 word story is on this page.Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 12.19.51

I did finally stop pfaffing about and started writing today.

Pains and joys – more lessons for the writer and self-publisher

When Border Line came back from the printers, I couldn’t bear to open it for fear of coming across a gigantic error or a name missing from the acknowledgements. So I opened one box, took one copy out and gave it my husband, then shut the box. A week later I bumped into my dear supporter, neighbour and kind reader of early drafts, Maureen Katrak, and knew as I talked to her that I has missed her name from the acknowledgements.

Three days ago I discovered I had forgotten someone equally deserving of my thanks, David King. From the other side of the Atlantic, battling with MS and unable to read without voice software, David has read and given me feedback on at least three drafts of Border Line over the years.

I don’t know by what malign convolution my brain has managed to let slip these names as I wrote up my acknowledgements, I only know that these two people should have been there at the top of the list and I owe them both heartfelt thanks for all they have done.

So, dear writing friends, don’t be an idiot like me, keep a scrupulous record of those amazing people who give you their time, their thoughts, their honest opinions and their kindness.

On Saturday, still reeling from the mortification this last discovery, I attended The Linton Kitchen Christmas Fair on a sunny but freezing day.

I set up the tiniest stall possible with 15 copies of Border Line and two or three of my previous novel Unseen Unsung, mostly to prop up the newspaper article about me. In spite of thermals, my fingers froze and my toes seized up on the cobbles. I expected, if I was lucky, to sell half a dozen books. After a hurried re-supply from my husband, I sold 23 copies of Border Line IMG_0834and 6 of Unseen Unsung. For a small-scale self-published author these are significant numbers. So selling in a local venue where your face is familiar (notwithstanding the threat of frostbite) is a better bet than a getting your books onto a shelf in a book shop.

I had two copies left when I took this photo.


Mea culpa – red-faced publisher

Umm, I have a confession. All this stress over Amazon making my life as a publisher (Threadgold Press) into a nightmare and endangering sales of my new book (Border Line) may be my fault. I asked them, yet again, why they did not send an email to me about an order, and I put in the email address I expected them to use. They replied that if I wanted to use this email address I had better change my settings, because the one they had was… They had a non-existent email address, a mixture of two of my three addresses. This particular stramash is an error I have made in the past, so I’m sure it is my fault. Apologies Amazon Advantage (ouch!).

My penance is to tell you all and perhaps help one other person to avoid the same pitfall, and to check their settings when expected emails go astray. In spite of GIGANTIC embarrassment, I am happier than before, because an intractable problem has an explanation and a cure, so the problem should disappear.

All I need now is a placatory photo so that you will remember the photo and not my idiocy.PICT0001

Author (almost) Faints at Book-Signing Event!!

If Amazon put me through a two-week version of the author and publisher’s worst nightmare, today the gods handed out one of those moments that an author can only dream of. No, I didn’t sell 100 books, or get signed up by an agent or publisher. It was sweeter than that.

I was sitting in the corner of the friendly and comfortable café of the Gog Magog Hills Farm Shop Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 22.02.14DSCN6799(Like so – sorry, this only comes blurred.) I had distributed little booklets with info about Border Line  all over the room and left a browsing copy on one of the tables plus various other signals. However the café was full much of the day and I remained hidden. Several friends came and we all chatted and I sold a satisfactory trickle of books and I had my photo taken with an interesting Chinese visitor, Josie, who bought a copy too.                             In the afternoon a couple of women came and sat on the table next to me, glanced at my leaflet and got on with their tea and chat. Finally, as they left, one of them leaned over and spoke to me, and I explained that I was signing my new book. Then she spotted copies of my earlier novel, Unseen Unsung, and said, ‘Do you mean you are the author of that book?’ I agreed I was. I was gobsmacked by her reaction and modesty prevents me from repeating… well actually I was so overwhelmed by all she said I can’t remember it enough to repeat. After saying many wonderful things, she explained to her friend that she had made her reading group get it and it had been difficult to get enough copies and they had had to share books, she didn’t have her own copy… I sat there is a state of blissful amazement.

Anyway, I think if you ask any writer what would make them happiest in the world, it would be to hear from a stranger, who had read their book, a spontaneous and generous appreciation of it. So Tracy and Alison, if you should happen upon this post, thank you for making all that sweat, uncertainty, aspiration and crazy numbers of hours shifting words from A to B (and often back again), all worthwhile in the end. I really mean that.

Publication day and the blood pressure challenge

Border Line 2Border Line will be released tomorrow… except that two days ago Amazon took the print book off the UK site. A friend who had pre-ordered the book had the order cancelled and received an email saying… ‘Our supplier has informed us that it’s been discontinued and is no longer available.’

I, the publisher, supplier and author, have sent no such information.

This came on top of increasingly frantic efforts to get a cover image for the print book onto the Amazon UK site. In the course of these efforts I discovered that Nielsen have been feeding out the image to Amazon since August, but Amazon are having problems with images and are still working on a fix.

At this moment, Border Line (print version), can be found by clicking on the kindle edition icon, then choosing ‘paperback’ from the list. This then shows it as unavailable, but you can put it on a wish list. If I had been trying to dream up a way to raise the blood pressure of a small publisher/author to danger levels, I don’t think I could have done better job than Amazon have achieved.Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 18.54.12

In the grand scheme of things these are trivial problems. So on the plus side, I have twice met the hedgehog outside the back door, either with his face in the trough, or waiting patiently by an empty one. We have had a visitation by a small flock of goldcrests, picking spiders off our window ledges. They were too swift to photograph, but they did reduce the blood pressure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATomorrow I shall have a peaceful day, signing copies of Border Line (or twiddling my thumbs) at the wonderful Gog Magog Hills farm shop.


Borders, borderlines and choosing when to die

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Border Line (as print and ebook) in the UK and ebook worldwide will be on sale from December 5th 2014

“Of course love is the ultimate luxury, but I am unwilling to continue the trek in the certainty of its absence.”

Eleven people travel across Slovenia in a small coach. Grace and the other nine members of the group all wish to die, while their leader, Daniel, appears only to want to help them. He involves them in actors’ exercises and therapeutic games. They tell stories, travel like tourists and surprise themselves with laughter. Daniel promises he will take them, at the end of the trek, across another border to die. Though they are free to change their minds at any time, by day twenty-one they must make their choice.

Border Line is written as  an entertaining and comfortable-to-read story about ordinary people. That said, its USP (Unique Selling Point – see, I have the jargon) is: ‘An upbeat love story about suicide’… So, any sane person may conclude that I have either trivialised a very serious subject by wrapping it in a love story, or the reverse; I have spoiled a decent love story by weighing it down with the heavy subject of how we choose to die. (I am long past judging whether it is either or neither).

Three things kick-started Border Line:

  • Some lines in a poem titled Rehearsal by Eleanor Green                                     … for an exercise/I look at his hands/to improve our relationship/onstage?…
  • A strange and wonderful day with a Frenchwoman, an American/Hungarian(?) woman and a taxi driver from Ljubljana, in which we communicated in many tongues while trying to see most of Slovenia. We got lost in a forest in fog.
  • Curiosity about people who feel a particular kind of guilt. We try to help victims, but what happens to decent people who cause bad events.

DSCN1906 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Borders in the story are Slovenia’s. This amazing country, about the size of Wales, and has four of them and, being at a cross roads in Europe, a lot of nations have tramped through it.                                                                          DSCN1940OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The borderlines in the title are also those of the mind. Suicide causes untold distress to relatives and friends. We all know this, and most people who contemplate it at some time in their lives recover and go on to complete their natural span. Yet living is, for some people, unbearably difficult and I personally have never felt I could blame someone who chooses the exit route. I also feel, ever more strongly, that we should have some choice about how and when we end our lives.

I also believe that there is much to live for and that the majority of people are kind, trustworthy, interesting and loveable and the world is an endlessly fascinating place that I will be reluctant to leave when my time comes.