(Self)publisher in a spin

Or Threadgold Press up the creek with not much more than a couple of lollipop sticks.


When you decide to self-publish it’s a good idea to remember that what you are taking on is at least six people’s jobs. You have to park the fact that you are the author and settle down at your desk. First you become a typesetter, an editor, a designer and a proofreader. Then your Office Manager gets down to the practical stuff of commissioning the printing, and getting it sorted and delivered (and hiring heavies to persuade everyone you know to proofread… again), then the Catering Manager organises the launch party and the Publicity Manager takes care of the press releases and the local newspapers and talks. The Marketing Manager emails every person you have ever met and persuades them to buy an advance copy. At which point the office supply personnel get busy with the packaging, the stamps, while the Accountant keeps records of sales and the paperwork to go with the orders. The IT Advisor sorts out (or fails to sort out) the glitches with the Amazon system for uploading e-books and images.

What have I left out?

The office staff let the author out this morning for a ten minute run around the garden. She got a little over-excited by her ‘Maple nursery’ (seedlings of Matzsukaze and Sengokaku) in autumn glory. And some brave autumn crocus mixed with primroses (!)   DSCN6789DSCN6792But she is back at her desk now, happily parcelling up an order for three more books (and worrying about whether the print run will last until publication day).

It’s even more DIY than last time round. The City newspaper, has asked the author to provide her own article ‘From the Author’s Mouth’ and supply book-cover image and author photo. The local farm shop is kindly allowing her to sign books in their cafe on the release date. Ah well, she can now drink the ginger wine – a thank you yesterday from the group at the sheltered housing in the village who, in spite of multiple challenges, listened sweetly to her babbling on about the joys of writing.

One tomato, two tomato, three tomato… and some maples

My husband was a little underwhelmed by his first sight of lunch today.

We love tomatoes and I thought with the new greenhouse we would have a splendid crop of homegrown ones. Sadly, all the ones I started in the greenhouse have not fared well after being transferred to the vegetable plot. The blazing heat, our sandy soil and my erratic watering and feeding (though I tried) have not been to their liking, so every kind of rot has set in and this is all that is left.


And they’re not as healthy as they look. The one plant I kept in the greenhouse is looking much happier, so next year I will fill the greenhouse with them.


However my little nursery bed of seedling maples has come through the summer in brave force and I think there are some interesting plants here.


I was a little alarmed to see that the parent of most of these, Matsukaze, is already showing some Autumn colour. I don’t understand where the summer went or how the year is slipping past so swiftly.


At least the birds and the hedgehogs are flourishing. Outside my writing room window very new half-coloured robins, bluetits, great tits and coal tits and, I think, a willow warbler (who resists the efforts of the paparazzi ) all flit about constantly (very good for concentration) while the ground is patrolled by pigeons, dunnocks and blackbirds (one with a grey head). We hear the hedgehogs at night and they polish off a plate of mealworms etc every night. I am torn between my desk and the outside, but the seasons won’t wait, so I must try and get out more.



Mixed fortunes

The week has been disconcerting.

I have, with relief, finished reading yet another book I did not enjoy very much (I swear the last time I will do this), though it did travel across countryside I am fond of. At least I am only reading three books now. 

Every attempt to settle to writing on my new novel has been thwarted, however my finished novel has had a bite from an agent… I am not holding my breath.

I have been working on the Far East POW book again (new post tomorrow night).

In the garden warm weather has led to some strange anomalies. A spring clematis, Wada’s Primrose is flowering.


Another maple is only just now shedding its autumn colour.


But sadly one of my favourite maples, Sengokaku, was showing canker and today I have had to cut a big stem out of it.

Tomorrow I shall be at a Lindy Hopping workshop all day – happiness!

New acer seedling

In the last couple of years, we have had many seedling round the maples, particularly Matzukaze. I am very excited by the two-year-old one below, which has looked delightful all year. The nearest other-parent maple is Sengokaku, but there is also a green dissectum in the garden and this looks a more likely parent (there is a second bronzier seedling in the same pot.

Matsukaze seedling

Matsukaze seedling

Yesterday we travelled through Suffolk (UK) in brilliant sunlight. Even though it is November many trees are still in full green leaf, others sporting every shade from butter yellow to crimson. In our own garden the trees and shrubs showing their best colour for many years.

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Shy saxifrage and bold maples

All day in the garden today. There is so much still in bloom. One of my favourite flowers is this saxifrage fortunei. It is maddeningly slow to increase, but worth the wait.

saxifraga fortunei

saxifraga fortunei


saxifraga fortunei

saxifraga fortunei

Some of the maples are in their most dramatic phase.


Acer palmatum Matsukaze

Acer palmatum Matsukaze

Harlequin ladybird

Harlequin ladybird

And I have just found a bud on the miniature white nerine I was given last year – happy gardener.

jet-lagged from Chicago

I am planning a blog reassessment, but first I will put up some posts of various things on my mind.

Chicago has totally charmed me. We stayed on the North Side and all the streets were full of an explosion of spring into summer; narcissi, tulips, maples in leaf, cherry blossom, hostas everywhere. The sidewalks often have cultivated strips beside them, all individually designed by the house owners.

The number of theatres is quite astonishing. We saw three excellent productions in three different theatres (two directed by Elly Green), we listened to a (free) string/clarinet lunchtime concert in the beautiful Culture Centre. We saw a superb exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art – Destroy the Picture – the anger and innovation made visible in post WWII ‘paintings’. The Smart Museum of Art had an astonishing collection (and a foyer with people of all ages having a go at producing a Rothko painting).

The highlight was being caught and soaked by the high canon of water from the Buckingham fountain in Grant Park and then drying off within about 15 minutes in the sunlight and warm wind.


Our first and only baseball match (to date) saw The Cubs win. Altogether a visit of enormous entertainment and happiness.


Talking to a worm

I have a feeling that talking to a worm is a sign of serious derangement, but that’s what I found myself doing this afternoon. The garden is dust dry and the bugs have arrived. I have to go on daily lily beetle patrols and blackfly inspections. The maples, now in their glorious new growth are under constant attack. I love every leaf, though, so I willingly spend time squishing the wretched beasts.

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Mulch at dawn

At 7.30 this morning there was a hammering on the door. A man with crane truck and bags of mulch had arrived. In my dressing gown and bed-socks (on a frosty morning) I stood on the front path directing operations as he lowered a great bag onto the front lawn. At this point we discovered that there was a misunderstanding about the order – he had been about to deliver three assorted bags – and he had to lift the bag up again. Luckily he had the correct one of loam which he dropped, and I spent the rest of the day distributing loam, creating a bank of earth. It looks quite shallow here but there is a drop of about 3 feet.


I was still planting as the sun was setting, more tomorrow, but it is beginning to shape up. At this point a car drew up and the man from the mulch company delivered the two small bags of bark that should have been on the lorry that morning – amazing service.


I am in maple heaven as they all slowly come into leaf. Though yesterday I found blackfly on the barely emerging leaves of a big purple maple (Trompenburg). This seems tough on the maple as the leaves are so tender that it is difficult to remove the bugs without harming the leaves.


Mahler and garden ghosts

White souls have been inhabiting the garden last two mornings. These rather beautiful ghosts are the frost covers that I wrap around vulnerable plants that are just coming into new leaf. And yes, I know I should only grow hardy plants, but sometimes the tender growth on tree peonies gets zapped and one of the great joys of spring is waiting for the oh-so-slow buds to open into fragile cabbage-sized blooms. I am equally soppy about the new growth on my maples. In fact I go a little gaga each spring as I watch the leaves unfolding (and again in autumn as they blaze before dying).


Last night was a treat beyond description. We had recorded a performance of Mahler 1, conducted by Simon Rattle with the Berlin Phil, in Singapore. I am a Mahler addict anyway, but this was so beautiful, intense and powerful, that I cannot imagine a more fulfilling experience. I so much prefer to have my heart beating too fast because of a musical crescendo than because a foolish character in fiction or TV drama is blatantly putting themselves in danger and we are invited to watch their downfall.

Shattering, but immensely satisfying day playing with bricks. The brick paving on the drive was washed so all the sand has gone. Over the twenty years they have been there many bricks have sunk and there are bad, wobbly patches. I found I could extract the bad bricks, introduce sharp sand and make them level again. I have also been robbing the bricks from the area that is being redone (THEY START TOMORROW – only a week later than scheduled) and my brick paths can progress at last. The garden is a war zone now, with piles of earth, turfs, pots full of uprooted shrubs and bulbs, bags of rubble and sand.

The birds are unfazed and nesting industriously. The early martins have stayed and settled and are burbling away outside the bedroom window.


On Thursday I did some serious work on Border Line and managed to post another submission yesterday. I don’t plan to talk about politics in this blog, but the events in Boston and elsewhere have made an uncomfortable backdrop to our domestic and very lucky and privileged lives.