Thursday, 30 January 2014

"I am ready to meet my Maker."

"Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."

Today, 30th January, is the fiftieth anniversary of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. His granddaughter Emma Soames remembers the occasion.

I watched it on television. There was the ceremonial that we do so well. The rousing singing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic in St Paul's.

But for me the most poignant moment was the crane drivers' salute as the launch Havengore pulled away from Tower Pier.

Inheritance of Secrets available on Kindle

My first published novel is now available on Amazon Kindle.

Inheritance of Secrets by Victoria Prescott is a historical romantic mystery.

When Alicia Vernon travels to Kent in the autumn of 1792 to claim her inheritance, she finds herself at the centre of mystery, danger and romance. When everyone seems to have something to hide, how can she know whom to trust with her life - and her heart?

Read an extract by clicking on the link at the top of the page, or go to my page on Amazon.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

E-publishing - or not - again

More than two years ago, I blogged about the advantages and disadvantages of e-publishing. E-publishing has continued to expand, especially publishing by independent authors on the Kindle Direct Publishing program.

It seems to me that the arguments both for and against have become stronger. There is a huge amount of poorly written, poorly edited work out there which swamps the good stuff and gives independent  or self publishers a bad name.

On the other hand, some authors who have self published on Kindle have been very successful. Some have been taken on by traditional publishers. Others prefer to remain independent.

Having resolved that this year I would make some real progress with my writing, I decided to publish a novel on Kindle. More on that novel in my next post.

I published less than a month ago, so my experience with self publishing on Kindle is so far minimal. The publishing process is quite straightforward, so I was surprised at the sense of achievement I felt at having done it. I think it was  more because I had actually got some fiction out there for people to read,  than because I had mastered the technical process.

I'm thinking long term, and I find I'm enjoying the freedom to plan everything to suit myself. There are no deadlines -  unless I choose to impose one on myself. I decide what to write, what to publish, and when to publish it. Because anything I publish will always be available, I can try out different methods of publicity at times to suit me.

So here's to the start of my career as a Kindle published author!

Friday, 24 January 2014

The Good Old Days

One of the books I most enjoyed reading last year was My Old Man, 'a personal history of music hall', by John Major. The book is thoroughly researched - John Major acknowledges that he had help with this -  but what really makes it stand out is John Major's very evident respect and affection for the performers.

Music hall was the great popular entertainment of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, from grand city centre halls to small town venues. Performers such as Marie LloydVesta Tilley and Harry Lauder were highly paid international superstars. 

Very few recordings exist of these artists performing, and those there are were mostly made when they were past their best. In any case, as John Major points out, their true talent  was for performing on stage in front of an audience. 

We have to rely on (not always favourable) contemporary accounts, re-enactors and our imaginations to recreate the sights and sounds of Victorian music hall.

Sadly, some of the music hall stars were unable to cope with fame and the sometimes punishing schedules of performances. Some fell back into poverty, their health ruined. Others were forgotten as wireless and cinema superseded  music hall as the most popular forms of entertainment. 

But their songs remain. Some of them have given us words which have entered the language, although most people now have probably forgotten their origin. And most of us can probably sing snatches from Victorian music hall songs, even if we don't know their history.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Finding Characters

'How to' books for aspiring writers often deal with the question of devising and developing characters. Some recommend cutting photographs of people out of magazines to use as starting points.

As a writer of historical fiction, I'm always on the look out for unusual occupations carried on by women. Not every woman in the past was a domestic servant or a governess or a Regency Miss.

Miss Dale, in the previous post, was a photographer's assistant in 1911. What did that entail? Did she stage the settings for studio portraits? Did she help to develop and print the photographs? Did she acquire some knowledge of chemistry as a result?

Was she a photographer herself? Did she go out on her bicycle at weekends, photographing local landmarks and beauty spots? What story could be told abut her?

A recent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery included a portrait of Esther Inglis, a calligrapher and illustrator, born in 1571. Esther's parents were French Huguenot refugees.

She lived in Scotland and England and seems to have had contact with many prominent English and Scots people of the time, including the Earl of Essex and Robert Cecil.  Is there a story of plots and conspiracies to be found there?

Characters can be found everywhere, if one looks for them.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Edwardian Family

I have made various New Year resolutions concerning my writing. More on that in a future post, but one of those resolutions was to revive this blog.

I've been doing some local history research in the 1911 census, and I found this splendid family.

John Thomas Dale, head of household, aged 46,  plasterer, and his wife Mary Elizabeth, aged 47;

Their daughters:
Elizabeth Martha, aged  23, photographer's assistant;
Ethel Blanche, 21;
Daisy Violet, 19, school teacher;
Hilda, 17;
Grace Louise, 14;
Lily Dorothy, 12;
Ivy Ethel, 8;
Minnie Florence,  6;

John Thomas, their son,  aged  2.

The daughters' names are typical, even fashionable, for their generation. A much greater variety of Christian names was in use by the end of the nineteenth century, reflecting the fact that more infants were surviving. 

The house the Dales lived in was fairly new in 1911, but it was quite a small three bedroom terrace, with the front door opening directly onto the parlour. There was of course no bathroom in 1911. One has to wonder how this family of eleven fitted in. 

I wonder why no occupations were given for Ethel and Hilda. Elizabeth and Daisy had good jobs, but I don't know if their earnings, plus their father's, would have been enough to support the whole family 

Unless there was an older boy who had already left home, the Dales would not have had a son or brother fighting in the Great War. But I wonder whether any of the young women lost a sweetheart in the war, and whether any of them did war work in factories or hospitals or on the land. Even Lily would have been old enough by 1918. 

What was it like for young John, growing up with a houseful of older sisters? His mother would have been 44 or 45 when he was born  - a very late baby. Were she and her husband delighted to have a son at last, or did this baby come as an unwelcome surprise?

Sometimes an apparently very late baby was in fact the child of an unmarried daughter, and was brought up by the grandmother as her own, to avoid scandal. But even knowing no more than their names and ages, one has the impression that the Misses Dale were good, respectable girls and young women.