A new chapter & updates

Not a new chapter in my book, but in my life.

On Friday 25th October I handed back my work’s laptop and ‘phone and was escorted out of the office (only because I no longer had a door pass – not because I was in disgrace), never to return. I’ve finally retired!

I wrote a poem about the last day:

Pale faces staring at windows;

expressions of regret or envy.

Having done my time,

I’m escorted off the premises,

my electronic tools of the trade

taken off me

to be cleansed, reconditioned, ready for re-use.

The door sighs wistfully shut;

its single eye blinks green to red

and I am barred for perpetuity.

I take a step forward,

straining at the cables that had bound me.


There go the processes and policies that had ruled my working life.


There the Vision that was never mine

and the Mission Statement I didn’t make.

Like a hot-air balloon released from its moorings,

I am free.

With each step my data banks are

cleansed, reconditioned, ready for re-use.

A backward glance.

No faces at the windows now,

They will be bent over blinking screens,

each in their hermetically sealed cell,

like robotic bees making electronic honey

for someone else to sell.

Each step is lighter than the last,

each breath of air fresher.

This morning an employee,

this afternoon a retiree.


Security raise a quizzical brow,

“Finishing early?”

“No, finishing.

Full stop.”

I have taken early retirement (just a year) because I want to enjoy life to the full, something work was getting in the way of. I have a great long list of things I want to do and learn (is it too late to learn to play the piano?) but top of my list is to spend much more time writing and marketing my book – soon to be books.

“The Jewel Garden” was published in February 2018 and I have been doing a number of things to try and promote it:

  • Joined FaceBook groups – not sure if this actually results in sales
  • Joined Twitter – see above
  • Given talks at 3 different libraries on Mary De Morgan and why I decided to write both a biography and a novel. Sold 1 novel and 1 biography in total. An excellent way of getting your name out there but probably not for selling books.
  • I went to the Southam Book Fair a few weeks ago (first book fair I have attended) and sold 9 books. Now that is a good result I think so I hope to go to others. Having seen how effective a roller banner is to draw people, I have had one done by Vistaprint (who I use to print bookmarks and A5 cards – both of which I give away free at every opportunity). This is the banner which I am waiting to be delivered soon in readiness for the next book fair in Henley-in-Arden:

  • I have sent copies of the book to journals that do reviews (Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Historical Novel Society) in the hope that someone may buy a book based on the review.
  • I had a blog tour – which is when people get sick of the sight of it for 5 days. As I don’t have access to numbers sold, I don’t know how successful this was – but again it gets your name out there.
  • I did a local radio interview, where I sounded like an eccentric old biddy – which actually is my ambition!
  • I was “interviewed” on a couple of blogs and had to answer some standard questions on myself and my book.
  • I actually mentioned the book in my farewell e-mail. It might prompt a few people to take a look at Amazon and buy it.
  • I have just bought a book called “The Frugal Book Promoter” by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. I am hoping this will give me more ideas on how to promote this novel and my next one.

“Song of the Nightingale” is to be published by The Conrad Press in March 2020. If you recall, I dithered about using them as I had to pay £755, most of the cost going towards the cover design. Well, having seen it, the money is well spent. The designer is Charlotte Mouncey (http://www.bookstyle.co.uk/) and I can’t recommend her enough. The book tells of two young boys who are bought from their families, castrated and taken to a conservatoire in Florence in order to be taught to sing as castrati. My suggestion to Charlotte was that the cover should show the dome of Florence cathedral, overshadowing the silhouette of two young boys who are holding hands. I wanted the cover to show the vulnerability of the boys and a sinister atmosphere. The cathedral dome is so iconic and would show the setting of the book. Charlotte took my idea and put her own spin on it and wow, wow, wow! I can’t share it yet but it is absolutely stunning and I have every hope that people will buy the book just for the cover!

I also had to write the back cover text in about 100 or so words. Simple! However, it actually took 7 attempts before James Essinger (of The Conrad Press) accepted it. The general gist did not change but James explained why certain words had to be re-phrased and it took quite a while before he was happy with it. James explained that the back cover text (he told me never, never, never use the word “blurb”) is more important than the content of the book itself, because a potential reader will not open the book unless s/he is drawn in by the words on the back cover. I am happy with the result – so with the fabulous cover and the enticing back cover text, who will be able to resist buying it??

Charlotte also does the typesetting and sent it to me the final version to do a final check. I had read it prior to sending the full manuscript to James just a couple of months ago, so I was pretty complacent and didn’t expect to find anything.


I found about 43 changes – all my own fault. I honestly cannot understand how I had missed so many fundamental issues:

  • In the first chapter I describe the moon as being new. Just a few pages on it was nearly full.
  • In an early chapter Philippe refers to his father as Guiseppe, much later on as Alberto.
  • Before sending to James I had added a paragraph which described how Philippe and the boys had to ride through a wood. I have had to remove it as just in the previous page I had said how the route they needed to take avoided the wood where bandits are likely to hide.
  • In one chapter I described Father Pietro, who had had his tongue ripped out so he couldn’t speak. Later on, I had him telling Philippe that he had not seen one of the boys.
  • In one scene I called the young girl Tabitha by the name of the other young female character, Isabella.
  • Quite a few grammatical errors (missing full-stops and apostrophes) and words misspelled.

These are all very basic mistakes and I am mortified that I have only found them now, but glad that I have. I think I need to pay for someone to do this in-depth checking of my next book – more expense!

“Grandmother’s Footsteps” has been put on hold since June because of other commitments. But now that I am retired I intend to get down to finishing it. I am currently writing it in first person, present tense which suits the book very well. However, there are potentially another two books in the series and I am not sure it will work so well for these. I want them all to be the same (actually, do they have to be??), so I am going to re-write the first few pages in different combinations (first person, present; first person, past; third person, present; third person, past) and give them to a few people to see which they prefer. I don’t really expect anyone to say any one is better than the other so I guess I will have to make the decision myself in the end – I am just prevaricating!



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