Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Teaser Time! Season's Meetings

Time for another sample! Curl up on these cold winter nights with a delightful romance.

The Blurb! 

Unable to face Christmas with her family and the famous sister who stole her fiancé, Annie Powell books into a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands.

Mac Hartman isn’t looking forward to the holidays either but when Annie turns up on his doorstep, he is instantly attracted to her.

In the beautiful, snow-covered mountains, love blossoms and what could have been a miserable experience, becomes a fairy-tale. But all fairy-tales must come to an end and real life doesn’t have happy ever afters.  

Can their budding romance survive Annie’s fears, and her seductive sister, who seems determined to steal Annie’s happiness?  

Season's Meetings is a fantastic festive read, to warm you up on those cold winter evenings.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Some Important Female Scientists That You've Probably Never Heard Of

In my last post I discussed how and why Damaris's character was formed. In this one, I'll introduce you to a handful of the women scientists who helped me create the intellectual side of her. She is not based on any one person here and indeed, many have little in common with her, but are nevertheless worthy of being remembered for their contributions to science. 

Caroline Herschel came to England from German in 1772, to run her brother’s house for him. When her brother took an interest in Astronomy, Caroline followed and helped him make observations and build telescopes, becoming a renowned astronomer in her own right. She was the first woman to discover a comet and discovered 8 in total, and she had her work published by the Royal Society. She was also the first British women to be paid for her work, when her brother convinced his patron to pay her an annual wage. 

By the time of her death at age 97 in 1848 she had received many honours, including a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society and between them, she had her brother discovered 2,400 new stars.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Deconstructing Damaris

When writing Her Saving Grace, I was prepared for a backlash from the historical puritans (which so far, hasn’t come) but it might surprise many people to know that the science loving, polymath, Damaris Wellesley, is based on real people

Now when we think women and science, especially the origins of women in science, we perhaps think of Marie Curie, or she would at least be high on our list, but while she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was far from the first female scientist. 

Science didn’t begin as we know it today with structure and form, overseen by teachers, conducting experiments that thousands have done before and if one wishes to pursue a career in science, getting a job working for a profit company, or working for a university and applying for research grants. 

Granted, many scientists did teach at universities, but just as many if not more, did not. Science was, to my modern understanding, more what might be considered a hobby. Wealthy men with money, no profession, time and curiosity, set up rooms or laboratories and thought about stuff, then set about devising ways to prove the conclusions that had come to. They dabbled in science, almost. The gifted could also be supported by scientific institutions or wealthy patrons, although they were most certainly middle class, or raised and educated by a charitable institution. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Her Saving Grace, Chapters 1-3

Sample time! Here comes the book blurb.

Countess Damaris Wellesley has suffered more loss in her 25 years than most people suffer in a lifetime and to protect her shattered heart, has closed herself off from Society and taken refuge in her books. When the remains of her long missing father are discovered though, she is determined to see justice for him and ventures out into the world once more.

As Justice of the Peace, Nathaniel Copley views it as his duty to discover what befell her late father but she is too wary of his intentions to help. 

Thinking him arrogant and superior, she flatly refuses to cooperate with his investigation. Finding her behaviour to be impertinent and abrasive, he tries to dismiss her from his thoughts. 

It doesn’t take Nathaniel long to realise that she is something special and worth fighting for but even although she agrees to help him investigate, her heart proves far harder to secure than her help. 

*Links to buy at the end of post.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Vive la révolution!

Or not

There's a few things I'd like to say about Russell Brands Newsnight interview.

1) Jeremy Paxman was not beaten, knocked out or thrashed. The point of Jeremy Paxman is to play devils advocate and make his interviewees prove their policies or point of view. Jeremy Paxman is not Michael Parkinson, he's not there to have a nice chat with famous people. His job is to push them until he gets the answers he wants, even if he actually agrees with their point of view. That's what he did here and he succeeded in getting a very passionate and eloquent Brand talking about his views.

It's win/win.

2) Unfortunately, Russell brand doesn't take things from a historical perspective and is passionate, but not particularly informed.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

More Regency Fashion

Lauriston Castle
After last weekend's Austen weekend, in one of those odd coincidences, today I had a lecture on Jane Austen Fashion, held at Lauriston Castle. It was my first visit to the castle, which hides itself away in the middle of a council estate, but I think I will be returning for a guided tour of the place.

The talk was given by Julia Soares-McCormick and while I cant claim to have learned anything new, it was lovely to see some new pieces, including underwear. I know for example, that the first knickers (or pants for the Americans) were two individual legs which individually fastened around the waist (The world#s first crotchless panties!). However, I had never before actually seen a pair, not even a picture. Seeing a half corset was great too, and very much like our modern strapless bras today, save that the fact that they lace at the front.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Regency House Party

Old Alresford Place

 Click to enlarge the photographs
There were about 14 of us staying for the weekend, and others coming the following day for the talks and/or dancing lessons, and more just for the ball.

I arrived on Friday afternoon at Old Alresford Place, a former rectory with some stunning grounds. I was told that dressing in costume was optional that day as it was so hot, but I felt that I should get the awkwardness out of the way and just had enough time to dress for afternoon tea. 

As suspected, my costume was rather out of place as everyone else wore authentic dresses, of the design and material of that age. Some even wore stays, corsets and petticoats from that period. I was far from the only new person however, and two other couples had never been to such an event before, one couple even came all the way from America!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

What is a Love Story?

Ask a selection of people to name some of the best romances or love stories of all time and you will likely hear some of the following among their answers. Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, and Gone with the Wind.

I'm sorry, but by what definition are any of these stories romantic?

Now, I do understand the power of a brooding hero, as well as the appeal of all consuming love/lust/infatuation/obsession, but these stories all clearly show the destructive nature of these emotions and in no way glorify the relationships.

Which is why I simply don’t understand why so many people classify them as love stories. What's more, I don’t believe that the authors ever intended for these to be love stories or romance stories.

Let’s start with the worst of that bunch, Wuthering Heights.

Has there ever been a less appealing collection of characters in a novel? I don’t think so.

Yes, Cathy loves Heathcliff and vice versa, but she rejects him because he isn’t rich enough. From that point on, it is a battle of wills to see who can destroy the other first, and not just between Kathy and Heathcliff, everyone around them gets caught in the crossfire too (or indeed, does their fair share of bad deeds). The pain and misery these two inflict on each other and everyone around them is positively loathsome.

Wuthering Heights is a lesson in the destructive nature of obsessive love and it far more resembles a hate story than a love story.

Romeo and Juliet.

Now this is about two children who are so totally infatuated with each other, that they end up dying for that love.

WTF! Leaving aside issues of them being children, they are willing to die for their love; they both commit suicide when they believe the other has died.

I don’t know about y’all, but I want the people that I love to go on without me, not to kill themselves if I died.

Besides Romeo and Juliet don’t love each other, they are infatuated with each other. They don’t even know each other a week when they die and it takes time to get to know someone. Once you’ve lived with their leaving the toilet seat up constantly, farting in bed and not killed them for saying “you know?” constantly, then you can claim to be in love. If he or she is just “the dreamiest person ever” then that’s inflation, or perhaps lust, but not love.

Look at those pictures below. Do you honestly think a love story staring those kids (middle and left) would be an epic romance? Because they're both 13 years old, the age of Romeo and Juliet.

Now, some people argue that Romeo is older than Juliet, since his age is never specifically stated. Many seem to think he is at least 20. Does a 20 year old wooing a 13 year old seem any better, or worse? 

All in all, Romeo and Juliet seems to be a story about infantile infatuation in stupid young people, or a predatory older man. Not exactly something to aspire to.

Gone with the Wind.

Is that what love looks like?
Don’t get me wrong, I love this story and watch the film about every 5 years or so but I still don't believe it's a love story.

Rhett loves Scarlet (and I believe he loves her warts and all, proper love, if you will) but she loves Ashley, who doesn’t love her.

Yes, Rhett and Scarlet get married and yes they have a child, but there is no love in that marriage, it’s a power game between them (slightly more so on Scarlet’s side than Rhett’s).

Then consider that the only time they have sex, Rhett rapes Scarlet. Apparently she sees nothing wrong with that and wakes the next morning smiling and happy (and preggers) warming to the idea of Rhett as her husband (yeah, as you can guess, I love that plot twist. NOT).

Meanwhile Rhett (I think, appalled by his actions) finally begins to distance himself from her.

Obviously, neither of them can be honest and after their daughter dies, they end up truly hating each other and doing their best to hurt the other.

To me, an integral part of love is respect and honour.

As I said, I believe Rhett truly loves Scarlet (despite being an arse and raping her) because when Ashley’s wife dies, he leaves so that she can have Ashley. He does what he thinks will make her happy, not himself. She realises too late that that she does want Rhett but she’s already done so much against him that he can’t believe her.

Still however, by marrying a woman who doesn’t love him, he isn’t respecting himself. He deserves better and because he doesn’t have a woman who loves him, they both end up hurting each other.

Gone with the Wind is an engaging, epic story, a wonderful snapshot of a period of American history, and a character study in how unrequited love affects different people.

But it is aanother hate story, not a love story.

Perhaps someone who likes these stories as romances can enlighten me, because even as a child and teenager, I never found anything romantic in these relationships. What is the draw of these tales? Star crossed lovers? Brooding hero's? 

*The images of both 13 year old children and the 20 year old man, were taken from news stories. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Love, Lies & Murder, Chapters 1-3

NEW RELEASE: Love, Lies and Murder by Catherine Winchester
Ooh, sounds scary! (If you scare easy, that is). But if you like a little bit of mystery and intrigue with your romance, this is definitely the book for you.

The Blurb: An unusual proposal and an intriguing whodunit set in the sumptuous Regency period, with a passionate love story at its centre.
Under the terms of his father’s Will, widower Alexander Cavendish must remarry before he turns 30, but the suspicions which surround his first wife’s death mean that his choices are limited. On impulse, he picks a stranger, offering her security and protection in return for marriage.

Helen Norton has few options in life and accepts the proposal, but she quickly comes to realise that everything in Alex’s home is not as it seems. When attempts are made on her life, Helen realises that if she is to stand a chance of surviving, she must solve the riddle of his first wife’s murder.

Is Alex a killer, or is he Helen’s devoted husband? Was his first wife an adulteress or simply a loving mother? And if not Alex, then who among this family of aristocrats had the motive to kill?

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Literary Snobs

Today, a Mr Michael Deacon (no, I hadn't heard of him before either) pens a heartfelt satire of Dan Brown's work, pointing out all the flaws in his writing.

I can't help wondering how much of his life Mr Deacon wasted penning that useless, uninformative, unimaginative bit of tripe. The whole thing smacks of jealousy.
"How dare Dan Brown, a multi-million selling author, not live up to my expectations of literary brilliance, while I, who does live up to my own exacting literary standards, am still struggling to break through! It isn't fair, goddammit!"
He'd have been better to spend those few hours trying to come up with an engaging plot and interesting characters for his own novel, rather than tearing down someone who has succeeded, in an attempt to make himself fell better about his own lack of success.

What Michael Deacon doesn't seem to realise, is that most readers simply want an enjoyable story, not a literary tome that is so brilliant, that one has to keep a dictionary handy and then decipher the hidden meaning behind each scene.

I suspect what Mr Deacon forgot is that his "article" (and  use speech marks for article, as it doesn't live up to any definition of journalism that I know of) isn't just insulting Dan Brown, but is also maligning every single person who has read and enjoyed one of his book. 80 million people read the Da Vinci Code; what astonishing arrogance it takes, to believe that you know better than 80,000,000 other people.

Someone needs to tell these literary aficionados that rather than coming across as a wise, educated and intelligent people, they sound more like elitist twits, who are completely out of touch with the majority of readers out there.

Dan Brown tells a good story. Michael Deacon does not.

P.S. If you have time, pop over to the Wall Street Journal, and read how one literary snob rediscvered his love of all fiction, and realised how much he'd been missing out on.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Has the world gone mad?

I tried to sign up for Barns and Noble today and had a rather confusing experience.

This is what their terms and conditions say: 
"If you wish to wish to publish and distribute your eBooks through NOOK Press, you must sign up for a Vendor Account, which will require you to provide us the following information: (i) for tax reporting purposes, your home address and, if you are located in the United States your federal tax identification number (or social security number if you are an individual), or if you are located outside of the United States, similar identifying information issued by the applicable governmental authority; and (ii) for the purpose of transmitting payments to you, your bank account number and routing information if you are located in the United States, or your SWIFT or International Bank Account Number (IBAN) if you are located outside the United States."
Sounds like they accept international authors, no? Except that once I had completed my account information, I got an email asking me to call them and verify the account. I called and was told that they cannot accept authors who are not US residents. 

I checked the terms and conditions again and called back, only to be told to instant message business services. I did, only to be told the same thing. Then I received an email to confirm that they cannot accept international authors.

"On Thursday, the company reported a stunning 26 percent drop in Nook sales during the last quarter of 2012. The Nook, said CEO William Lynch, was no longer able to compete with full-featured tablets like the iPad." Source
I know self publishing authors from all around the globe who are doing very well with Amazon kindle, and I alone have had 3 best sellers on Amazon. If you want to be some special snowflake of a company, who just can't accept international clients, then no wonder you are failing. You deserve to fail, and Amazon (despite my many problems with them of late) deserve to beat you.

My dealings with amazon go from bad to worse.

So near to paying some of my debts off,
yet still so very far.
After the whole cyberstalking incident, comes them withholding 11,000 dollars of my money. This is the email I have sent to Amazon's CEO, as their KDP customer services department don't even seem to be able to use common sense.

The images in this post weren't sent with the email below, although I was tempted.

Dear Mr Bezos,

I apologise for contacting you in this way but I hope that you can help me, as KDP customer services seem incapable of applying logic to my situation.

At the end of March I changed my payment details for royalties from EFT into a US account, to EFT into a UK account. 

When payments for April started going into my old account, I contacted Amazon to ask why, and was informed that the old method of payment would continue to be used for another 60 days. That was no problem, I just hadn't realised it took 60 days for changed to take effect.

In total, Amazon made 5 payments into my old bank account but notably, the payment for royalties accrued in the USA was missing. On the 1st of May I emailed customer services to ask where they payment was, as it hadn't gone into my account, nor had a received a remittance email for my USA royalties. The payment should have been for over $11,000 dollars, so I hope that you can understand my worry when this payment didn't come.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Literary fiction and Snobbery

I live in a city with a rich history of literature, indeed we have been named the UNESCO City of Literature. One thing that I notice however, is that despite being a writer, I don’t often feel welcome at writing events here.

My books are not literary, they never will be but that doesn’t mean that they are inherently without merit.

Reading anything, even rubbish, engages the whole brain, lowers Alzheimer causing protein, reduces stress and heart disease and may even improve empathy between cultures. Studies prove that reading tricks your brain into believing that you are engaged in the activities in your book, while watching TV, listening to music or playing video games are passive activities, which don’t stimulate the whole brain.

Books also increase happiness and stave off feelings of loneliness.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Marketing Tips for Indie Writers

Since marketing and sales tips are what I get asked for most frequently, here is my advice. 

As mentioned in my unrealistic expectations post, none of this will turn your book into an "overnight success" but if used wisely, it will help you build sales over time.

These are generally ranked in order of importance, most to least.

First of all, your Amazon (or other sales) page is essentially one big advert, so make it the best it can be. Have a quality product so that the look inside feature doesn't turn potential readers off (hire an editor or proofreader if you need to). Be certain that the cover is the best it can be since this is what will tempt most readers to click on your page in th first place. Work and re-work your blurb until it is short, professional, interesting and most importantly, will make potential readers want to know more. And please do your best to make sure there are no errors on your page and in the blurb; we're only human but it can turn readers off.

Secondly, write another good book. The more books you have out there, the more chance you have of someone discovering one of your books and if they like it, they might well check out your other books too. Associated sales can make up a large chunk of your income.

Third, promotion never stops. I have reached the point where I make bestseller lists (and fingers crossed that it continues) but I still tweet excepts of good reviews, link to them on facebook, join relevant groups on FB, post promo tweets under the existing book hashtags (such as #SampleSunday and #WeekendReads). I post chapter one of a new book to my blog as a sample, with links to buy at the end. My website has a mailing list option so readers can sigh up for updates. 

I did used to make good use of the free option on the KDP Select program (and probably will in the future too). By that I mean that you need to promote that it's free. Contact kindle freebie blogs, twitter freebie accounts (a common tag is #freeebooks), post it to facebook voucher/coupon groups, general freebie/coupon/voucher websites. The more free downloads you get, the better the word of mouth will be and the more reviews and word of mouth sales you might get. 

I think it was freebies that got me the readership that I needed to make it to the best seller lists

Next, contact forums, blogs and groups in your genre and ask them to mention or review your book. 

DON'T SPAM! To be sure that you aren't considered spam, contact the admins and ask if you can post a promotion for your book, or ask them to consider posting a link to your book. If there is no admin, post and ask other members if it's allowed. I sent a private message to one FB group owner who had a historical western group and asked "would you consider" my book (but I didn't say in what capacity she should consider it). She came back and said they didn't do reviews any more but would post a link for me, for which I thanked her. 

Don't become a pest! The golden rules for promotion are-

1) Ask (unless its twitter or your own FB page)
2) Post 1 maybe 2 links or posts 
3) Then leave it be. If you make a nuisance of yourself you will turn potential readers off.

These next tips are the ones i believe are least effective, as least for me.

If you have any contacts in the local press, ask them if they can run a story on you, or get their book reviewer to read your stuff. If you have an interesting or unique story, contact local papers (or even national newspapers if your story is interesting enough) the worst they can say is no.

Enroll some paperback copies (if you have them) into BookCrossing or similar and "set them free". 

If you do have paperbacks, contact local shops that specialize in your genre, or small independent book shops, and ask if you can do a reading for them, or even if they will consider stocking your book. if it's only on Kindle, have some posters or leaflets printed and ask if you can leave them in the shops. 

Marketing opportunities are endless but they are also time consuming, so direct your efforts to where you believe they will bring you the most return. 

Things that will NOT work
1) Publishing your book and not promoting it
2) Press releases. Just don't waste your time
3) Paid for advertising, online or in print
4) Blogs. I don't know that my blog posts here has got me a single sale. My chapter excerpts have (I can see by the link stats) and some readers like the additional info on my books that I post here, although by then they have generally bought and read the book. In my humble opinion, general blog posts just don't give you the necessary return for the effort required. 
5) Blog tours. As above, they just dont give the returns you need for the effort (and cost) you put in.
6) Book trailers. 

And finally a bone of contention, reviews.

Many people will tell you that you need good reviews to succeed. I disagree. Reviews might help some readers decide but my last 3 books reached the top 10, without a single review on their pages for up to 2 weeks. For some of my books, I've been unlucky enough to have a 1 star as my first review, yet sales didn't die off (although they may have dipped for a time). 

The truth is, most people aren't used to having ample access to book reviews, they're used to walking into a book shop, browsing and then buying the books with the blurbs that most appealed to them. Amazon and book review sites have been around for perhaps 15 years and popular for perhaps 10 years, but the majority of readers have been uing book shops for decades longer than that. Over time it may change and people might put more stock in reviews but for the moment, no or negative reviews haven't affected my sales. 

The next point is your books rating. Mine go between 3 and 4.8 stars on Amazon and honestly, the 3 star books sell better than the 4+ star books and the 4+ star books are usually my earlier works, which I know aren't as good as my newer, lower rated books. My best rated book with 4.8 stars is hands down my worst seller. I get maybe 4 sales a month on that one, maximum, despite it only having 4 and 5 star reviews. 

What have I learned from this? That not all 5 star reads are good quality and that not everyone wants a quality read; many readers out there just want a little escapist entertainment. 

Thats the reason why so many big budget films follow a formula, why formulaic TV shows are consistently watched and why (in the UK) our soap operas are consistently in out top 10 programs. People want to watch something they're comfortable with, or that they know has a happy ending, or that wont require taking notes to keep track, nor move so slowly that they are inclined to nod off. 

People want to be entertained but not necessarily (or certainly not always) made to think or concentrate too hard.  Tell a good story and some people will like your book. 

Some people will hate it too. Have you loved every film or TV show that you've ever watched and every book that you've ever read? Even if you love police procedurals, that doesn't mean that you will automatically love or like every police procedural? Does that mean that the ones you don't like are inherently bad, or just that they aren't to your personal taste? 

Sadly your book wont be to everyone's taste and some of those people will slate it in reviews. I once heard of a reader however, who bought a book based only on a one star review. Among other things, the reviewer gave it one star because didn't like all the sex in the book, but the reader thought that lots of sex sounded just up her alley. 

So even negative reviews can help your book sales and I think that most people know that on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, reviews are just opinions and opinions are like arseholes; everybody has one and some of them stink.

So that's my advice on how to make sales but a final word of caution. Use your time judiciously

You can literally spend weeks marketing your book but on the whole, that time is often better spent writing a new book. The more books you have, the greater chance you have of one of your books appealing to a potential reader. If they like one book, a lot of readers will look through your other books. 

So always consider the time requirements of a marketing attempt before you embark on it. Visiting book shops for example, is very time consuming and not likley to give a big (if any) pay off.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Unrealistic Expectations and a Voice of Reason

I never fail to be amazed by the numbers of people who have completely unrealistic expectations when they self-publish a book. 

You know of all those "overnight successes" you've read about? Chances are they put 10 or more years of hard graft into their writing careers BEFORE they became an "overnight success". 

I like to think of it like this. No matter your age, if you changed careers, say from I.T. to insurance underwriting, would you honestly expect to become CEO or COO overnight? Or even just a Director or department head? Hell NO! You would expect to put in years of service, take professional exams where necessary, work hard, do well and slowly get promoted through the ranks. 

Why when it comes to being an author, does this common sense go out of the window? 

Then again, starting a new business is probably more like self publishing than being employed, so say you start a clothes designing business. Would you honestly expect to rival Gucci, Prada, or even Primark, overnight? NO! No matter how talented a dress designer you are, you would expect to build your business and your brand slowly, proving your talent, growing your customer base and maybe one day, you will be a respected brand in the fashion industry. 

You might consider coming up with a business plan and even researching your new business. 

So why does everyone expect to write one book and with little time, research or marketing efforts, become an overnight success? 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Time for a little Queen.

There's always time for Queen. Plus, I love this song.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Staying Positive

I imagine he has a sort of Muttley-esk laugh

Well, after the negativity of the spiteful Jenny M that I posted about yesterday (the troll who is going to, how did she put it, make me “the worst rated author on Amazon”) and the unfairness of Amazon in being totally blind to the issue, I decided to see if her campaign was effective. 

The answer is a resounding "No"! 

Despite her vindictive reviews, getting most of my good reviews removed, upvoting my bad reviews and downvoting my good ones, I'm still 7 in the Regency Romance chart! And with only a 2.2/5 rating! 

Even Duchess, which was released back in January, is still 85 in the regency chart.

I should have learned my lesson from Psycho-Ex, when no officials were the slightest bit interested in actually helping me stop his stalking. People in power just don't care about the little guy but so what? I literally had to leave my life behind and start again so if I can survive that, I can survive a jealous teenagers tantrums.

I think I just forgot to count my blessings for a day. It's hard to be unhappy when you're feeling grateful for what you have. 

The best thing is, my "success" is still so new, that I still feel like I want to burst out laughing at random moments, as the dog above seems to be doing! 

Whoever said success is the best revenge was 100%  right! 

I'm now looking forward to the spa break I'll be taking my family on soon, to say 'thanks for helping me while I was a struggling writer'.

And to God/destiny/fate/higher power/luck or whatever else is up there and may be looking our for me, thank you. 

Saturday, 30 March 2013

How Amazon is enabling cyber stalking.

NOTE: Please do not engage this person in any way; do not respond to her reviews, do not leave her a 1 star review. I attracted this stalkers ire by defending another author, and I would hate for my friends to receive the same treatment. This is up to Amazon and the police to handle so for your own sakes, please DO NOT ENGAGE! 

At the beginning of March, there was an author on the kindle boards acting like a troll. they went by the username 'Gabe'. This troll swore at a friend of mine and demanded proof of her success, which I took issue with. I agreed with her statement, posted a link to my books as my proof and told him I would report any new 1 star reviews. Sure enough, one appeared about an hour later from a Jenny M. I didn't bother to report it as I honestly didn't affect my average, plus I had no proof that Jenny M and Gabe were the same person, so I let it slide. I did however, take a screencap of that whole thread, just in case.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Convenient Bride, Chapter One

Time for another sample from your some people's (like my mum, for one) favourite best selling romance author! Now, how can you resist an endorsement like that? ;-)

Book Blurb: Threatened with being cut off by his father, womaniser Maxwell Stark is forced to marry and he chooses the woman he secretly loves, Lucy Steed, his family's ward.

Lucy has been desperately in love with Max ever since she first moved in with the Stark family, but she’s convinced that he only loves her as a friend.

Although both are too afraid to admit their true feelings, the marriage is a happy one, until Max’s spurned mistress, Marie, decides that if she can’t have Max, then no one can.

They say that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’, and Marie is furious!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Sick and tired of fiction being presented as history

Mary Wollstonecraft, (1759 – 1797)
I actually have an awful cold at the moment, which is probably contributing to my really bad mood but I am sick and tired of people who learned their history from fiction books, trying to tell me that the behaviour of my characters is too forward, that women didn't act like that in those days and that I need to read more Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen to see where I'm going wrong.


You probably have no idea how ignorant you sound when you say things like that, and when you tell me to base my books on fictional depictions of the time, rather than cold hard facts, I want to laugh so hard that diet coke will spew out of my nose.

So, lets debunk a few myths about these supposedly chaste, virginal, prim and proper women who lived in the regency era, shall we?

The fact is, once you put the fiction down and pick up the biographies, it soon becomes clear that while I'm certain that some women were chaste, virginal, prim and proper, many others were not.

Mary Shelly (1797-1851)

Take Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797), possibly the first feminist writer and a woman who had no problem pursuing men, even married men. She had affairs with artist,  Henry Fuseli (as well as proposing a Ménage à Trois to his wife) then she later had a child with Gilbert Imlay before marrying William Goodwin. After her death, her husband released a memoir of her life, happily revealing her affairs and illegitimate child to society, as he supported her views.

Mary's second child (with her husband, William) was Mary Shelly (1797-1851). She believed in free love, had two illegitimate children herself with, Lord Byron, the first when she was 18 and the second a year later. As for Lord Byron, he had affairs throughout his various marriages, one with Mary's step sister, Claire (who also had an illegitimate child by him) Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828) and Lady Oxford (1774–1824) who was the daughter of a reverend and 14 years older than Byron.

Lady Oxford (1774–1824)
[See the end of this post for a list of some more famous pre and extra marital affairs in the regency period]

And if reading biographies seems too much like hard work, here's some simple and easy facts for you.

In the early part of the 1800s, 7-10% of all births were illegitimate and 35% of brides were pregnant when they walked up the aisle. So that's almost half of all women who weren't virgins on their wedding night.

Prostitution was second only to becoming a servant, for the numbers of women working in the profession.

Illegitimacy was so common that Baby Farms began to appear, where women would take in illegitimate children from unwed mothers for a fee. Dozens of ads were found each week in newspapers, such as the Daily Telegraph and the Christian Times. Usually these poor children were drugged, poisoned or starved to death to maximise profits.

Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828)
Those regency women aren't looking so pure white and virginal now, are they? Bet those men are looking a little tarnished too.

Now, those images you have in your head of life in the regency period probably look something like this; beautiful women and men, with hours of leisure time at their disposal, whose lives are a whirlwind of parties and balls and romance, right?

The problem is, that isn't how it was for 99% of the population. The rest worked 12-16 hour days in awful conditions. Children entered the work place from as early as 5. Most didn't live in humble but very well kept dwellings, they lived in slums, where sewage leaked into their houses and disease was rife.

Regency London also smelled awful! People emptied chamber pots into the street, no one cleaned up after their dogs or horses (and horses were the only form of transportation), the air was thick with pollution from home fires and factories and the fog often described was so thick, because it was a mix of smoke and fog. Ever heard the term "pea souper"? That's fog that's so full of pollution that it looks green. That my friends, is the reality of Regency London for everyone, not just the poor.

Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806)
Now I do gloss over much of this, because who wants to read about a lady stepping in shit, or urine running down the gutter? But that doesn't alter the reality, or make the characters depicted by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and the like, anything other that pure fiction.

Seriously, telling me to read fiction novels to learn where I'm going wrong, is like telling me to read the DaVinci Code to better understand the Catholic Church. That's not to say that the DaVinci code is completely made up and no facts about the church are real, but it's still an inaccurate portrayal and I'd be much better picking up a few factual books on the history of Catholicism.

And while my books do contain accurate historical detail, I really wouldn't recommend them as a way to learn history, because they just don't go into enough depth to be useful in that regard. I'm writing fiction to entertain, not history textbooks.

I think most of my readers are smart enough to understand that, but a few readers do get awful mad at me for deviating from their picture-perfect vision of times gone by.

*A (far from complete) list of affairs and illegitimate children that I have come across during my research.

James Smithson (1765-1829)
Georgiana Cavendish had an illegitimate son while married, with future Prime Minister, Earl Grey. As for her husband, the Duke of Devonshire, well he moved his mistress into the house and they all lived together, like one big happy family.

Lawrence of Arabia was illegitimate, the result of his father leaving his wife for the family's nanny. Sounds like something you'd read in a tabloid, doesnt it, not 1800s England?

Sir Henry Morton Stanley, writer and explorer, was born to an unmarried 19 year old girl in a small Welsh village.

One of the founding fathers of the USA, Alexander Hamilton, was born in the British West Indies colony, to married French woman Rachel Faucette Buck and Scottish Lord (or Laird) Alexander Hamilton.

James Smithson (of the Smithsonian Insttute) was born to the Duke of Northumberland and widow, Elizabeth Hungerford.

Sarah Bernhardt  (AKA the most famous actress the world has ever known) was born to an unmarried, working class girl, her father was unknown.

Countess of Bessborough (1761-1821)
Born in 1824, playwright Alexandre Dumas, was the illigitimate son of a dressmaker and the author, Alexandre Dumas Sr.

Lady Bessborough had two illegitimate children with, Earl Granville.While she was pregnant with their first illegitimate child, Granville had an affair with Lady Hester Stanhope and later, a Russian princess. Then when he had sewn enough wild oats, he married Lady Bessboroug's niece! Now that's what I call keeping it in the family.

Dorothy Jordan had numerous illegitimate children by many fathers, including the Duke of Clarence.

And finally, William IV had ten, yes TEN illegitimate children with Mrs. Jordan.

So the next time you think of doubting my historical fact, please do your homework first, BEFORE getting shitty with me.