Saturday 30 October 2010

Catching Up...

I've just got back from a few days away visiting historic monuments and interesting places in other parts of the country.

It wasn't intended to have any literary connections, but I did find a few on the way...

So over the coming week I'll be telling you about some of the places I've been and hopefully some of the photos I took will show you what I saw.

I'll be starting with my visit to Chatham Dockyard where I went on some ships and avoided the submarine tour...:)

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Reference books I wouldn't part with- Part 2...

This book is for the writer/reader interested in the history relating to marriage, separation and divorce before the first Divorce Act in 1857.

Broken Lives: Separation and Divorce in England 1660-1857 by Lawrence Stone.
ISBN: (Hardback) 0-19-820254-7

(While there were some historians who were unhappy with his methods and the conclusions he reached in his earlier books, but they still make interesting reading.)

Where marriage was concerned, it was much simpler for the ordinary man and woman than for the wealthy. Even if love was involved in their relationship, money came into it at every stage, even with divorce.

(Now pass over the next bit if you are already familiar with the financial aspects of marriage within the wealthy class.)

At marriage a dowry was paid by the bride's family to the groom's. In response, provision would be made for the couple so they had income to live on. And in case she became a widow, her jointure- an annuity for the rest of her life was agreed (a pension).
All her personal property- jewels, furniture and money became her husband's to do with as he pleased when she became a Mrs.

So a wife risked a great deal to separate from her husband but some still did it, despite the social and financial ruin they would incur, as well as the loss of access to any children they had.

The section of the book that I find the most interesting is the case studies taken from the court documents, statements from the parties involved and those of witnesses ( often they were bribed to give a particular version). This is the ugly side of social history of the wealthy.

A few years ago I had an idea for a novella set at the turn of the 19th century. My hero, Hugh, was the child of a broken marriage. So I created a back story to explain the separation and set about researching its plausibility. I researched what might be available in the county library, borrowed this book and began reading.

I came across a case in the late 18th century. It even fitted into the same time period my fictional characters would have broken up.
While my scenario didn't share any similarity to the distressing circumstances of the case, the offending male did.

I won't reveal more as I've started writing Hugh's story, but it shows that what we think may be unlikely, if we just look we may find it could have happened.

While the rich lived comfortable lives, behind closed doors some of their relationships were hell.

If they lived now- without the riches- quite a few of those wives would be residing in refuges for battered women or on long-term anti-depressants.

So when I see portraits of the aristocracy hanging in art galleries, I do look at their faces and wonder...

Saturday 23 October 2010

The Trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover...

Hard to believe this trial of D H Lawrence's book was fifty years ago.

If a publisher appears in court in the modern day it's usually because a non-fiction book has been published with disputed statements that could be damaging to the person it's about.

Obviously Lawrence's book was a work of fiction. But the powers that be, did get uptight about sex in those days.

Goodness knows what they would have said about the sexual references in literature published now. :)

There is a long article in the Guardian by Geoffrey Robertson QC discussing the effect the trial had. You can read it here.
(It is previewing a piece in the Guardian Review.)

So perhaps writers of today should thank DHL for his book...

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Just to add: If you are interested in D H Lawrence and want to discover more then there are two places in Nottinghamshire- the Durban House Heritage Centre and the D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum. For details see here.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Results of the September mini poll...

Thanks to those of you who voted in my first mini poll on your preferences for reading romances.

The results were as follows:


Historical: 57%

Chick-lit: 28%

The October poll is now up- okay I know it's almost November...:)

We've all heard the phrases ' blondes have more fun', 'tall, dark and handsome' and that red-heads have a 'fiery temper'.

So this mini poll is about hair colour of your hero and or heroine.

For the writers amongst you- do you find your characters usually have the same hair colour?

And for the readers- are you more likely to pick a book up if the character in the cover image has a specific hair colour?

You can find out the answers this time next month...

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Rejections and waiting to find out...

Rejections. A normal  part of a writer's life.

Heard today that the results of the Arvon Foundation six word story have finally been announced. Sadly neither of my entries made  the shortlist...

The writers' club I attend in Nottingham has a number of annual competitions, including a Romance trophy in memory of writer Mary Street. She had a number of traditional Regency romances published by Robert Hale and was delighted to have her book The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy published in America.

So this year I entered my synopsis and first three chapters for judging (back in June). It was being judged by a New Zealand writer and e-book publisher- so they went as an electronic submission via her UK partner (to maintain anonymity). The judging has been done and two weeks ago the results were returned to the competition secretary. So I'm hoping to at least get some positive comments back on my entry tonight, though it will be December at the Awards Night before I find out who won.

Actually I've also entered it for the club's Gladys Bungay annual novel competition too. The judge for this is a small publisher, and male, so I hope to get feedback on whether my male characters sound believable.
(Gladys was a published Mills and Boon author in the mid 20thC, under a different name.)

So all I need to do now is get on with finishing the novel...

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Libraries and the writer- and readers too...

Tomorrow the Government announce the results of their Comprehensive Spending Review and we all know that means more cuts are coming.

Last week the list of Quangos to be closed or transferred was announced and writers everywhere were very disturbed by the intention to transfer the PLR (Public Lending Rights) to another "existing publicly-funded body".

Read the statement in PLR News here.

PLR payments are vital to many authors who aren't in the best seller lists and don't  have books available in major booksellers. They are writers of local history books, romances in formats specifically for library purchase.
6p to the author each time it is loaned out is not much- and that depends on your book being in some of  the libraries being used for counting each year.
Cuts to arts funding in the past few years has meant this amount has not increased, nor would it be rising this year.

Last week our local newspaper listed pages of cuts highlighted by our County Council. The library service will suffer very badly with staff cuts and closures, as well as fewer books purchased. We lost a small village library nearby a couple of months ago.

One of our local publishers Ross Bradshaw- a man who has always supported writers in Nottinghamshire (a Lowdham Book Festival organiser)- sent an e-mail to writers and publishers on Friday asking for their support in his letter of protest over the library cuts. He has a hundred names supporting his stance.

I know how big a part the library (in my own home town) played in the writer I have become. It was a building full of words, adventures and facts that fed my growing mind and imagination.

I'm certain that some of our great writers, like Alan Sillitoe, wouldn't have stepped out of the life intended for them if it hadn't been for access to libraries.

Reader or writer, that should be available to all children and adults...

Saturday 16 October 2010

E-books and the 'Agency Model'

Anyone who looks at buying e-books (from suppliers other than Amazon) may be put off by the prices being asked for electronic copies of the latest books by the best known, and best selling authors.

Even I don't want to pay hardback prices for a digital copy. And suppliers eventually find an acceptable price to sell them at.

Now bear with me, it will become clearer as you read on...

This year life has been carrying on against a background of assorted e-book price issues taking place on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the USA action started with agent Andrew Wylie- too complex to explain here, but just Google his name and you can read all about his dealing this year.

You'll come across the term 'Agency Model' now.

In September it hit the UK with the announcement by Hatchette UK that they were moving some sellers to the agency model.

This meant that the publisher not the retailer would be setting the price that their e-books could be sold at, and W H Smith, Waterstones and the Book Depository responded by immediately removing or making unavailable  the publisher's e-books. Meanwhile Amazon Kindle continued selling at the price they chose...

Hatchette said there would be a "short transition period" while they moved from wholesaler terms to the new agency model, and their intention was to create a level playing field for booksellers, whether they are large or small.

Other UK Publishers have apparently being looking at this, and may follow.

Laudable but...

Now has told Kindle customers it "will continue to fight against higher prices for e-books".
It has suggested that publishers increasing e-book prices will lead to lower sales.

Their e-mail to customers states "In fact, since agency prices went into effect on some e-books in the US, unit sales of books priced under the agency model have slowed to nearly half the rate of growth of the rest of Kindle book sales." Read the whole e-mail here.

Now Kindle has a big part of the e-book market. When they launched the latest version of Kindle they were offering some well known books at exceptionally low prices compared to other suppliers.

Call me a cynic, but are they totally thinking of the customer having to pay more or are they concerned about their profits?

And what about the writer in all this? How much will they get?

Even that is variable...

You can read the Society of Authors recommendations here.

So what will happen next? Share your views.

Personally, I want to be able to buy an e-book for a reasonable price (for its length) but still ensure the writer gets a royalty rate that rewards their hard work and their level of sales, while the publisher makes enough money too...

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Reference books I wouldn't part with...Part 1

We all have favourite books that we keep and wouldn't think of giving away. I've heard them referred to as 'keepers' when speaking about fiction, but not relating to non-fiction.

I certainly have a few books that I wouldn't part with, mainly because of the subject matter, but they can sometimes cost quite a bit if there isn't a modern paperback reprint available, and not always available from local libraries.

Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years by Richard Corson.
My hardback copy- slightly tatty- is a 1984 reprint and was bought from a book sale at our County library about eight years ago for 80p. The most interesting 80 pence I have ever spent.

(It is a rather heavy book and 6cm thick.)

It starts with 1400BC and ends with 1978, over 3,000 black and white illustrations- and yes there is a hairstyle shown that I did actually have myself, around 1978. :)

There's explanatory text discussing how the styles developed during specific time periods, with additional images such as 14thC Venetian hairpins to caricatures of hairstyles.

There was a later reprint, but second hand prices are similar to the previous version.

I've not yet found another book that is as comprehensive as this one.

So do you have a reference book that you wouldn't part with ?

Please use the comment form to tell us about it ...

Sunday 10 October 2010

Handbags say a lot too...

How many Handbags do you have?

Now I will admit to at least half a dozen (that I can think of immediately) but there may be a few more...

But do you ever think about their purpose, or even what they say about the owner?

I'm a large handbag girl- everything but the kitchen sink basically- so it's fortunate I didn't live hundreds of years ago when I would have only had a small reticule spacious enough to hold a hanky, smelling salts and some small change perhaps... just in case.

Go forward to the early part of the 20th C and the small bag might hold a powder compact, a cigarette case, perhaps a lipstick and of course the hanky/small change were probably still there too.

Whether your character is contemporary or historical look inside her bag (or his, men now have them too) and see if they have anything you don't expect, and if they have, ask them about it.

If you just want to wallow in bags from different times then here is a link to the V&A search the collections option, put bags in the search box and then click on resulting images.

Books on handbags often concentrate on the 20th century designs, but if you want beautiful images then you will certainly find them in books.

The V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) currently have a book available with images from the museum's collection:

Bags by Claire Wilcox  (PB) ISBN 10: 978-1851775361

Other books available from online booksellers include:

Handbags by Anna L Johnson (PB) ISBN 10: 978-1851775361

Vintage Handbags by Marnie Fogg (PB)  ISBN 10: 1847323006

Perhaps I better clear the junk out of my handbag...

Saturday 9 October 2010

Plot Bunnies

I'd never thought that those 'moments' writers get, had a name. You know those times when an idea or a character pops into your thoughts and won't let go until you've started writing or typing  it. This is a plot bunny...

I always have a notebook in my handbag- whatever the size, I just change the usual  A5 notebook for a smaller one that fits the bag- just in case I overhear a bit of conversation or see something interesting and don't want to forget it. Or when one of those bunny's hops into view.

If you are a writer and don't always carry some device for recording those moments- shame on you. :)

Last week I blogged about clothes and the character. This was the indirect result of a plot bunny.

I was out food shopping and stopped to look at the woolly dresses that are one of this winter's fashions, and realised that they are too short for me. I'm a calf length hem type of girl, not above the knee- I don't have suitable legs for them!

(Though a few of my friends think I was born in the wrong century entirely...)

It started me thinking about the difficulties some young women must have had with clothes in the past and this was when the plot bunny struck.

Before I even got on the bus to go home I had my hero and heroine, and an idea of their problems. So on my next writing session I sat down to get on with one of my longer projects, but the plot bunny was thumping me on the head- until I gave in and started writing about them and the bunny went back to its warren happy.

So next time a plot bunny jumps into view, take it home with you and listen...

Thursday 7 October 2010

National Poetry Day 2010

Thursday 7th October is National Poetry Day. This year's theme is Home, and I've no doubt that many poets have been inspired by where they've grown up, their childhood experiences and memories- however you interpret 'home'..

I have a number of friends who are poets, and I envy their ability to create often moving verse, that speaks to the reader, pulling an emotional response from us.

Writing poetry is hard- I've tried it. Personally I don't think I will ever be a poet, so I won't inflict my one poem on you (inspired by an old table that was a part of my family life as I grew up. It is now with me).

If you want to listen to some poetry being read then go here and click on any of the red marked links.

Alternatively if you want to discover what's going on in your area then check out the website for National Poetry Day information.

Have fun...

Monday 4 October 2010

The Trials of buying Romance books

I met my friend Catherine for coffee and cake today (okay I was the one eating the cake, lemon, very tasty) and like me she writes, though her choice is horror- traditional bloodthirsty vampires not the vampire/werewolve romances that have started to predominate since the Twighlight series of books became best sellers.

We always look to see what books are on the shelves in our local branch of the big W (you all know who I mean) in our preferred genres, and I've not bought a romance novel from there for quite some time, though I used to spend quite a bit every couple of months.

For many years our branch had at least four bookcases of romance covering contemporary, historical, paranormal and traditional Regencies- many of them were imports from the USA as there were few UK imprints of the best known authors recent books.

I didn't mind paying more instore, even though I could have bought them from Amazon cheaper. I could start reading my favourite author's latest book on the bus home.

Then Twighlight happened.

Two of the bookcases became filled with nothing but paranormal romances with their black covers. A stark depressing contrast to the depth of colours binding the remaining romance books. Even bright pink chick-lit covers didn't look too bad then.

More changes and the romances were moved around the back of the bookcase and placed next to Erotica. Now I didn't have a problem with that, as some romances can border on erotica, and there is now a wider market for this area of writing.

Then the major store changes were implemented and everything was moved, which leads to the current situation of a limited number of historical romance being situated between Erotica and Horror- yes next to Horror, Stephen King and his ilk.

Just doesn't help when you're trying to find a good romance to read.

So now I buy online, or as e-book downloads, and my research and historical romance fixes are satisfied.

Okay, book shops of any size can't stock everything for everybody the way online suppliers can.

So, if you buy romances of any category, do you buy instore or online? Does price play a part in your choice?

I'd like to hear your views...