Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Have just taken Jackdaw E Books' first phone call from a pukka bookshop: I totally fluffed it because they enquired if we were North Pennine Publishing. However, the order is processed and packed with our brochure, business card and invoice inside it.

Roll on November, NANOWRIMO and all associated bookery.

Jackdaw E Books

Saturday, October 27, 2012

DRAGON BAIT - free this weekend

Dragon Bait

Get this book free - 27th and 28th October 2012 - free e-book promotion

This one's got humour and horses that fly.

Princess Andra volunteers to act as bait for the dragon ravaging her father’s lands, on condition that she is released from an arrangement to marry a foreign prince.

Unfortunately the Knight Rescuer who turns up is not the trusty old retainer she expects, but an unknown conservationist who wants the dragon, not the lady. After that very little goes according to plan.

GENRE: Comic fantasy
Click here if you are in UK (you normally buy from the .co.uk site)
Click here if you are in USA or India (you normally buy from the .com site)

If you take it please leave a review, and consider buying our other books! Jackdaw E Books

Friday, October 26, 2012

What's in a Mane?

This is one for native pony fans, and particularly those who like the Fell pony in all its currently Very Hairy glory.

Recently a friend posted a pic of a Fell mare, Linnel Pearl, who was champion ridden Native pony in 1936 at Islington - with no spare hair showing. (Nice photography, by the way - square on to the mare, and one step to the rear, which is far more flattering and representative than the modern habit of taking The Head On shot to get rider and horse faces together, and thus making feet and body appear tiny by comparison.)

Notice also that she had a star and white markings on both hind heels.

Anyway, here's the 1936 photograph, of Linnel Pearl trimmed-up for the show:
People who viewed it were surprised at how "thoroughbred" the pony looked in the trimmed state, and thought she looked quite different from a modern Fell pony. So I Photoshopped in the feather and mane and tail she might have had before trimming:
What do you think of her now?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

They're not fit let out on their own

Visitors staying in the converted barn are mostly delightful, but...

I have to say I worry about the common sense of some of our guests. We stipulate that the accommodation is non smoking; so most of our visitors don't smoke. If they do, they tend to smoke outside, so I put out a bucket they can use for their cigarette ends. Given our rainy climate the bucket usually has water in it. The trouble is, this seems to then extend their use to the dog's water bucket and the horse's water trough as extinguishing places. I can't believe that liquid nicotine and ash can be good for either of them. Today there is plastic picnic cutlery in the dog's bucket, too.

I have put up two notices on the stable doors that say "Please do not feed the horses." There are various reasons. One is that I've got greedy Fell ponies who are curious and will take something offered by hand which they would refuse if they met it in a bucket. They will very quickly learn that strangers offer food, and strangers' hands then become a target. I hate pushy horses who are constantly bullying for treats. Another and stronger reason is that when we have small children staying - and we frequently do - a greedy, nippy horse taught by the ignorant "feeders" would be dangerous to innocent patting, stroking hands. Yet another reason is that we had a group of smokers last year (ciggy butts in every bucket and trough) and I think they must have given one of the ponies tobacco to eat. That weekend Mr T had "the runs" something horrible for 24 hours, despite no change of diet. Townies just have no idea what is sensible to feed to a horse or how or when to feed it. And no consciousness of the dangers of their own ignorance.

This morning on mucking out I've found a paper plate in the stable. What part of "Do not feed the horses" don't they understand?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: THE GILDED LILY by Deborah Swift

The Gilded LilyThe Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn't read the preceding novel by Deborah Swift so I came to this with an open mind. It's well and cleanly written with a good understanding of what both London and Westmorland must have been like in the 17th C. The dynamic between the two sisters keeps everything flowing along. I have to say I was rooting all along for Sadie, with her blemished face and gentle, skilful nature. I was relieved that after being locked in a rented room for several days she was able to escape (and this may be a crass thought - but I wondered about the sanitary arrangements :) ) Despite all the jeopardy that Ella's bull-headed, impulsive behaviour brings, it does give the plot its central power and also its resolution. Mind you a lot of the time I wanted to give her a resounding slap for her selfishness. I wanted to like her and couldn't, and that's really the only reason why I haven't given THE GILDED LILY five stars. It's a fine read and towards the end is a real page turner.

England, 1660. Ella Appleby believes she is destined for better things than slaving as a housemaid and dodging the blows of her drunken father. When her employer dies suddenly, she seizes her chance--taking his valuables and fleeing the countryside with her sister for the golden prospects of London. But London may not be the promised land she expects. Work is hard to find, until Ella takes up with a dashing and dubious gentleman with ties to the London underworld. Meanwhile, her old employer's twin brother is in hot pursuit of the sisters.

Set in a London of atmospheric coffee houses, gilded mansions, and shady pawnshops hidden from rich men’s view, Deborah Swift's The Gilded Lily is a dazzling novel of historical adventure. (less)
Paperback, 336 pages
Expected publication: November 27th 2012 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published September 13th 2012)

1250001900 (ISBN13: 9781250001900)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review - The Sun's Companion - Kathleen Jones

The Sun's CompanionThe Sun's Companion by Kathleen Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my kind of book - clear, understated, chronological, full of little details that bring the immediate pre World War 2 era to life. Anna's and Tamar's lives are given alternate attention so that the gradual unfolding of the story retains my interest. Although they enter the book as barely-teenagers and are shown as relatively powerless in their society/families due to youth and being girls, neither of them is a cypher and they each have distinct characters and ambitions.

In many ways this novel is about the shadows that lie beneath each character's story. Tamar is never quite sure whether she is Sadie's legitimate daughter or not; Anna takes years to recover from her childhood rape in Germany. Kathleen made me deeply sympathetic towards both of them as they journey into the war years and womanhood. The people they meet, love and hate are all solidly realised and have their own motivations. Anna and Tamar are not high minded fantasy heroines, but real and believable people who cope in realistic ways with the necessities of wartime life.

I shall look forward to reading the sequel.

View all my reviews

Kindle Edition, 439 pages
Published September 8th 2012 by The Book Mill
It's 1935. Tamar Fell has no family - or so she's been told - and she relies on the friends she makes as she's dragged from lodging house to lodging house by her mother - the reckless, beautiful Sadie. Then Tamar meets Anna Weissmann, exiled from her own family by European politics, and they forge a friendship that will last through bereavement, failed love affairs, internment, betrayal, and the dislocations of war.

Monday, October 8, 2012

An absence of dragons

Blissful, that’s what it is.

After six months of rain, cloud, wind and mud that even an Englishwoman couldn’t call Summer, we have our third day in a row of sparkling October sun. I’ve opened the windows and changed the bed, and the sheets are actually washed and out on the line and not drooping round the house.

I like working from home. There are drawbacks of course. One of them is a tendency to eat breakfast at the computer while I catch up on Facebook, or check that the writing forum hasn’t gone berserk. I do this mainly to postpone reading the e-mails that have come in overnight.

The wet, miserable summer has meant I’ve done far more writing than normal. I’ve polished three books this year – copy edited, proofed, typeset, be-Kindled, covers designed and uploaded to print on demand, and ten of each delivered last week as potential giveaways and samples. I’ve built myself another web site and got my tax return in early. I’ve registered for an American Employee Identification Number and filled in forms to stop Uncle Sam withholding 30% from my earnings over there.

On Friday I enveloped my sales brochures, trade terms and promotional blurbs for bookshops and broadcasters. On Saturday I posted them.

Now I feel like a mother whose children have been miraculously swept away to their grandparents. It’s a curious sensation, to have nothing driving me. The crystalline beauty of crocuses and colchicums isn’t urging me to poetry. My ambitious young coachman isn’t fighting off women, my grumpy old bat isn’t cuffing her grandson for misbehaving, my princess isn’t flying a mission across country on a dragon. I’ve stopped to brush up the crumbs of cereal from under the desk. The house in my head is empty.

I suppose this is what’s called peace.

I know it won’t last. The advertising will kick in and people will start asking for interviews and talks and books (with any luck) will start selling. I want to do NANOWRIMO, and I’ve only got three weeks to get a plot sorted out, but whether I do or not, I will certainly gather up some rejected story and start re-building it.

Only not today. Today I’m going to submit to peace. I’m learning a Welsh tune for the harp, and my head needs to hold nothing more. A lost battle, remembered by a lament a thousand years old.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

National Poetry Day: 4 October 2012

It is possible to "name a star" after someone. Since July last year, there is one called Naomi.


I missed you by a quarter of an hour.
I should have hurried through my morning shower,
missed eating breakfast in the sleepy sun
or read no emails, or replied to none;
denied the summery procrastination
of that prettier route to my destination.

I miss you from the house when I arrive –
everything silent that was once alive.
The nurses meet me at the stair. Their kind,
practised updating powerblasts my mind.

I miss you from that waxy sleeplike face.
Your thin hands curl without their living grace –
no mischief – tickling doctors, climbing trees
or treating dollies for your own disease.
It's you with self subtracted. And I wail
till my throat hurts me like a swallowed nail.

I'll miss your heart, the things forever not –
the family, the life you’d yet to plot,
the cure you’ll never find – the future star
that cannot now outshine the one you are.

Requiescat Naomi
31 August 2005 – 15 July 2011

Video links about English coaching and driving (Bluffers' guide part 3)

The Bowman and Sutherland families - preview of the TV programmes recently on Sky. The Sutherlands do chuck-wagon racing, the Bowmans do Horse Driving Trials and Coaching; they had a go at each other's sports. The English section starts at 6 mins 11 seconds. This is a late 19th C stage coach (not a Mail) with hand-lever brakes operated both by driver and guard. Notice the horses are in full neck collars, unlike the breast collars that are popular for modern competitions.

If you're quick you can spot me and my daughter at 8:39 and 9:04 (we were in costume, though I admit NOT with any degree of accuracy) on the coach at Naworth Castle. We were aboard during the gallop up the hill to Naworth (black and grey lead-horses).

and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlEIEhAjGrc&feature=channel&list=UL - One of my mare's early driving show classes. Notice that my carriage is well balanced and well built so it makes very little noise over the grass, and you can hear Ruby breathing in rhythm to her movement. Other people's carriages are much more noisy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9UoLR0g3FA&feature=relmfu - a little schooling at home with my late grand-daughter Naomi.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WoEtzCgJdo - this is a curricle, albeit shown in Spain, not in England. To be totally correct as a privately driven vehicle it should have straps from the horses' collars, not chains, to the head of the pole out front. Notice how the weight of the groom behind is needed to make the turnout balance over the axle. You can't drive one without a groom back there.

And for stylish pure English driving and rein handling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgZnOB_1G5Q The carriage parade for Trooping the Colour 2012.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Bluffers' Guide to Horses and Carriages (part 2)

In the TV series "The Tudors" 19th century carriages were shown conveying certain grand personages about on behalf of Henry VIII. WRONG. This was the point at which I began to shout at the screen. Coaches were not in use even by Royalty until his daughter Elizabeth I's reign, and they were uncomfortable, jolting unsprung things suspended on leather braces. Elizabeth complained of being badly bruised from being thrown about in a coach that had been driven too fast, and she was a fairly hardy lady. There was no glass in the windows at this time (guess why) and wheels were shod with iron rims.

17th Century
Lots of authors forget that in a city, it was often convenient to travel in a sedan chair. Of course it didn't allow of company unless on foot, on horseback or in another sedan chair, but it had a lot of advantages over a horsedrawn carriage in the city. It was narrow and manoeuvrable so it could take you to places many carriages could not go, and the motive power understood speech! Also, in London and other cities based on a major river, watermen provided a taxi service up, down or across the water. John Taylor the "Water Poet" complained in "The World Runs On Wheels" that hackney carriages were taking away the ferrymen's business.

Steel springs made an appearance in the 1660s, and Sam Pepys remarked on them on a coach in London. He bought himself a private 4 seater carriage and two black horses, and probably employed a man to drive; and he seems to have been happy with his purchase, despite having to pay £2 to replace the glass in a window.

Commercial coaches were starting to appear on the roads. These were "stage" coaches which changed horses at inns along the road. One "stage" of its journey would be anything from 8 to 15 miles depending on the nature of the terrain. In winter, warmth for the passengers' feet was provided by filling the floor with straw - it works, but could be infested with livestock ranging from woodlice to fleas and even mice, depending on the diligence of the stable staff in providing clean straw.

18th Century
By 1688, stage coaches ran from London to 88 different towns and by 1705 this increased to 180. However, Mail coaches were not seen until after the Post Office adopted John Palmer's suggestion to convey letters by coach instead of on horseback, following a successful experimental run from Bristol to London in 1784.

Smart light two wheeled vehicles for private use, such as gigs and dog carts, became popular from the 1800s onward. Four wheelers such as the various forms of phaeton were common. But for independence and access to open country, to make your own way to a destination, you rode - and were liked all the better for your active character, as opposed to being carried lazily about by carriage.

As for the curricle, that vehicle so beloved of the romance author, like a tandem of horses driven to a gig it was racy and showy and difficult and inherently unsafe... so beware which of your gentlemen you put at the reins. It was an owner-driven carriage. (I mean, you don't buy a Ferrari and let a chauffeur drive.) And don't forget that with a pair or team your whip, no matter how skilful, needs a groom behind him. Why? Common sense and safety... and the blasted curricle wouldn't balance without him.

Manpower and brakes
A gentleman driving his own carriage and four would have had one man, and more likely two, to see to tangles or mishaps with the horses. In Regency Buck, the hero tells off the heroine for driving his team with no groom to help her, because her passenger has an injured arm. Georgette Heyer knew her stuff.

Not even an exceptional "whip" - male or female - would ever have driven without a servant, because early coaches and carriages had no brakes. Down gentle inclines the horses could hold the carriage back with the harness, but on steeper ones the footman or guard got down and fitted an iron drag shoe under the gutter-side hind wheel. At the bottom of the hill, he got down again, the whip backed the team so the carriage wheel rolled off the shoe, and the guard picked it up by its chain and hung it on the hook again - not touching it, because it was hot from the friction! The guard or groom had to deal with broken harness, kicking horses and so on... or just to hold the horses when the driver and passengers got down at their destination.

19th Century
Hand or foot operated brakes were late Victorian inventions which eased the work because the coach did not have to stop. They could still only slow the coach downhill; when loaded it weighed between 3 and 4 tons and the wooden brake shoes only operated on a 6 inch by 2 inch area of each wheel rim, so brakes couldn't stop it completely. Equally, rubber tyres for wheels were not invented till the 19th century, and they were solid, not pneumatic. Vehicles with rubber tyres tended not to have brake-blocks because they pulled the rubber off the wheels.

The idea of a "parking" brake didn't arrive until the advent of the internal combustion engine... a carriage you could turn off when you stopped. There are contemporary stories of coach teams being left unattended at inns, and taking fright or assuming a noise behind meant they were to start, galloping off with the coach with no driver at the reins... Horses require manpower, time and knowledge. Therefore - pretty please, authors - your characters driving a carriage can NOT abandon it at the roadside like a car, unless you want to plot a horrendous accident. You always need someone to take charge of the horses.

If you've got to describe a carriage drive or even a ride, it probably pays not to be too clever. Even simple things are very easily got wrong! For instance, you all know reins are for steering, and probably that traces come back from the horses' neck-collars to pull the carriage... the difference between the two purposes may seem obvious, but I've seen a mainstream published novel confuse the two.

Coachmen and good drivers held the reins in their left hand in an understated, workmanlike English coaching style and steered by turning the wrist, or by helping with their right hand which also carried the whip. They wouldn't drive with a rein (or two reins) in each hand; not unless you want to set them up to be ridiculed by their fellow drivers. For sheer style, watch any video of a British Royal parade with coachman driven carriages... the 2011 Royal wedding, or Trooping the Colour.

There is a big difference between sporty owner-driven carriages like phaetons (yes, and gigs and curricles), and sober coachman-driven carriages like barouches. It's very easy to get lost in their subtleties. For instance: pole chains. They were used to steer and stop commercial coaches, carriages and coachman driven vehicles, while pole straps denoted owner driven private vehicles... Probably best not to go into it too deeply unless you are prepared to read specialist books. Even the sainted Ms Heyer occasionally got things wrong.

Phew - I'd better leave waggons and farm carts and commercial trade carts for another day.

There, that got your attention, didn't it? I saved the best bits for the end.

Don't forget we have three genders in horses who are used as transport. There's the intact adult male, the stallion; the female, the mare; and the gelding, who is an equine eunuch and was probably "attended to" fairly brutally at the age of 18 months or so. Most working horses were geldings, whose lack of sexual interest made them easy to manage even for inexperienced staff.

Mares are the natural leaders in a herd situation - so they can be bossy. If they aren't in foal they come into "season" every three weeks from early spring to late summer, which means they may be distracted as well. Stallions have a sex-drive that rises and falls with time of year - up in early spring and throughout the summer, down again as autumn comes. To deal with either stallions or mares successfully takes tact and good horsemanship. So please don't have your heroine ride a stallion, unless you can also write about how she manages him in the company of strange mares, who will flirt by peeing at him if they're in season and try to kick his teeth in if they aren't. (Don't you love how horses can be upfront and obvious? My two favourite Fell ponies have been mares.)

In Black Beauty Anna Sewell tactfully fails to mention such matters, so generations of readers may well have assumed that Beauty's lack of sexual commentary simply meant that he had excellent manners, and that he was capable of retiring to stud and begetting. This is, sadly, very unlikely.

One final note
A horse in war, in a carriage, hunting or doing any other kind of work will NOT neigh or whinny when in a stressful situation - eg, battle or accident. You may hear a snort of fright, or a grunt of pain or effort, then the sound of hooves galloping rapidly away. Unlike movie heroines, horses do not scream.

Monday, October 1, 2012

You didn't know I was limited, did you?

In order to garner my Amazon Kindle sale money earned in America, I am going to have to approach the USA IRS and ask for an Employee Identification Number. If I don't, then the IRS will withhold 30% of my earnings as tax, and I certainly don't want 30 dollars of every hundred I earn going into the coffers of the White House for Mitt Romney nor even the rather nicer Barack Obama. Our own HMRC is going to try and knock tax off the remaining income for having been earned overseas anyway.

Running down the list of how-to's here from David Gaughran I noted that I might need to be a "company."

Although I'm a member of a committee that runs an equine breed society as both a charity and a limited company and so I am technically a director, I've never incorporated myself before. It was a scary thought. My husband was self employed for forty years and never traded as a limited company. But I shall be sixty in a couple of months. I'm a big grown up girl. I can do this!

I had already printed my books with the press name of Jackdaw E Books.

I was very cautious. I went to the Companies House web site with expectations of it being complex and expensive, but in fact it wasn't. I only entered my own name and address details. I said I was the director and had no secretary, that I owned 1 ordinary share and it was worth £1, and that there were no other shareholders.

I had to give various snippets of information like the first three letters of my mother's maiden name, in lieu of signature. At the end of the form, which validates the data and corrects you if you leave anything out, I waltzed off to PayPal, paid £15, and the deed is done. I am now "Jackdaw E Books Ltd" (with no full stop).

Since this ought to enable me to save $30 on every $100 from Amazon I reckon it was well worth doing. I'll have to post the company details on the web site, but that's easy enough, once they send me the company registration number.

I just have to make that transatlantic phone call now. Does anyone know what time it is in Philadelphia?