Physical work as distraction therapy

So, that’s it.  The Angel Bug has been sent out to a number of readers for a read-through by fresh eyes, as both my proofreader and I have read it so often we can’t see what is there, what was there and what isn’t there anymore – editing can throw up errors you, yourself, just can’t see.

Now, some of these readers know my style of writing and like it, and some have not read any of my novels before, but are avid readers, and then there’s one in the USA.

The latter because in The Angel Bug one half of the story is told from the view point of an American, and at times he also interacts with other Americans in the USA. Now, I have tried to make sure that he thinks and talks in the right slang and idiom for an American, but what do I know? I’m UK born and bred! Anything ‘off-note’ however, should jump out at a bona fide American and then I should be able to remedy the problem before The Angel Bug is published.

Here’s a conundrum for you …

UK = ‘This is a herbal mixture’  USA = ‘This is an herbal mixture’ (said ‘This is an ‘erbal mixture’  the American using the original pronunciation of herbal – hence the required ‘an’ as indefinite article.)

So, how would you render this in a book that, hopefully, will be read both sides of the Atlantic? 

My solution – ‘an herbal’ when the words are in the mouth of an American, ‘a herbal’ when in the mouth of a Brit.  I’m hoping that this will make ultimate sense as it is read.

Now, I am sure you are thinking that you have read traditionally published books written by either Americans putting words into the mouths of Brits ( or visa versa), and they have been wrong, wrong, WRONG!  Or situations – like the ‘muffin shop’ in a Dartmoor village selling blueberry muffins, ( back at a time before the UK had heard of muffins that were made of cake  –  and not the traditional English Muffin – bread,  let alone had whole shops for them) – which particularly sticks in my mind along with the ‘Chalk pits on Dartmoor’ that the  American author also had. (They are  actually China clay)

However, any serious indie published novelist will have realised from reading the blogs on writing, publishing and reviews, readers are frequently far more critical of indie published works than they are of traditionally published works, and as a book can be bought via the internet anywhere in the world …  you ‘d better get that world and its use of language right.

Unfortunately, it is the self-publishing writers who slap their books up without even proofreading them that has brought this hyper-critical gaze to indie published works. Simple fact – no matter how good you are at spelling, grammar and use of the English language – you cannot proofread your own work. Your mind will always read what it expects to read. Hence those great but tricksy ‘can you read this’ lines that get sent around the internet with letters missed or replaced by numbers looking a bit like the letters .. and yes! You can still read it!   S1M1L4RLY,   Y0UR M1ND   15   R34D1NG   7H15   4U70M471C4LLY   W17H0U7   3V3N   7H1NK1NG   4B0U7   17.

So, why the title of today’s blog?  Physical work as distraction therapy.

Well, sending out your novel to new readers is a bit like sending your first child off to school for the first time…. a bit nerve wracking. So I find distraction and pleasure in physical work instead. (Strangely, housework is no good for this therapy – well, that’s my excuse!)

In this case making some beautiful reclaimed slate coasters, out of Delabole roofing slates that may have been on a roof for two hundred years or so … and now are transformed by cutting, filing and, the amazingly revelatory, rubbing down with wet and dry paper – that shows what time and the mineral content of the slate have made of it. Each one different. Each one attractive in its own way. Love them 🙂 Do click on the picture to see them better!

These are going to the St Dominick Craft Fair – I can’t sell them from my slate-ware website as they vary so much I’d have to photograph and put up a special box for each one!

And while I worked I did not think of  The Angel Bug, all alone, out there … but I did allow my mind to wander and to wonder, what next? To listen for the voice of my next narrator ….


Have you any favourite howlers from traditionally published novels?

How do you take your mind off things?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you … it takes my mind of things 🙂


At last … Spring’s sprung!

I’ve not actually been doing Nature Notes this year ( after all, one year can be much like the last in nature-watching) but over the weekend I really felt Spring had Sprung!

Friday was the first day the new kids went out on the grass and I wished I had my camera with me as they bounced and sprung all over the place – kicking up their heels so high they threatened to flip right over. A video of that would have been good!

It feels like the garden flowers have all started blooming at once, the large sweep of daffodils in the orchard have at last burst into bloom, and everywhere there are large clumps of primroses, celendines and, if you look in the right places, violets. And our first Swallow has returned …













On Saturday I went to the beach for the first time this year, along with two of my sons and their girlfriends (down from London for the weekend).  A few hardy people went in the sea swimming (sans wetsuits) others, with wet-suits on, were surfing, the sun was bright (though the wind a little chill) and the dog had a whale of a time. She appropriated a hole, dug previously, as her ‘nest’, enlarged it a bit to fit and spent time retrieving cuttle-fish bones ( of which there were many on the beach, and take them back to her den.





Finally,  just for a bit of fun… the dog kept scooting the sand back when she was digging her nest out more …  it looked a little like she was doing a moon walk .. only 7 seconds – but enjoy:)

What makes you feel like Spring has sprung?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you!


Judging a Book by its Cover

This week I have been trying to get a handle on what I want on the cover of my new novel ‘The Angel Bug‘.

Traditionally published novelists often get no say in what goes on their cover. I heard one author complain that the cover of one of her Romance novels showed a blonde wearing tweeds, when it was obvious to anyone who’d even read the first chapter of her book that the main character was a brunette and wouldn’t have been seen dead in tweeds. (She said that it was set in the countryside, and she guessed that’s as far into the description of the novel as the illustrator had read)

The other extreme is deciding totally on your own what to have on your own book cover. And there’s the rub… what impression to convey with the cover? It is definitely a tricky choice because some people DO JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS !

Now, I have the offer of a professional job on the cover, once I have an idea of what I want .. so I have been trying a few rough mock-ups myself – finding this easier than explaining in words what I want. (The words that come out of my mouth seem to get translated into a different language as they go into someone elses ears)

The Angel Bug is set at the (world) famous Eden Project (in Cornwall) – at least for the core of the novel… so I thought I’d try to combine a picture of this with the idea of a ‘bug’ or ‘bacteria’ and change the picture of Eden to look like something you might see down a microscope.

Ok, effective-ish but WHAT MESSAGE WAS IT GIVING?  Having shown it to a few people I realised it wasn’t coming over the way that it was meant… it was looking a bit sci-fi..ish, a bit ‘weird’ and probably my usual readers wouldn’t pick it up.

So I tried the same idea without the inverted colours… now it just looked messy.

I won’t show you the weird effects I created trying to make it look like Eden was sat in a petri dish.. or indeed under an actual microscope – the images were too rough and I deleted them before thinking about this blog post!

I tried with a different picture and different view – better, I thought, but still the book looked like a sci-fi or a thriller…. neither of which it is, though,I suppose, it does carry some small elements of both.

original photo Neil Kennedy wikimediacommons

Another colour change and I felt I was working towards something that might not frighten off my readers … but did it convey the right image of the book?

At this point I really don’t know … I do know that it needs more thought and more feedback … or perhaps I’ll settle for the ‘blonde in tweeds’ and be done with it …

What does this cover say to you? Would you pick it up to read the blurb?

Do you judge a book, in the first instance, by its cover?

How do you select books to read?

Do share – I’d love to hear from you… and you never know it might help me 🙂


Long Distance Relationships

Today, Sunday, was my youngest grandson’s Christening – yeah that’s him (above) in his christening robe giving me a sermon on having missed it. And, how much I would have loved to be there with him, his mum, his dad (my eldest son) and his two older brothers (my only other grandchildren) but they all live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and I can’t get over there at the moment.

Really I am lucky as both the other boys were baptised here in the UK  in our local church where my son and his lovely wife were married. It was fortunate that both their Christenings could be arranged to coincide with long visits here.  This new event started me thinking about long distance relationships and how lucky most of us really are now.

When my parents moved some fifty-five miles from the East End of London out to a village near Maidenhead it was a HUGE move. At that time, 1954, they didn’t own a car and if they had, the journey would have taken far longer than the now estimated one hour fourteen minutes as the M4 had not been built even as far as Maidenhead. In fact, I can recall travelling up to see relations in London in the mini that we had by the time I was about nine and the M4 was open … it seemed an interminable journey even then!

My grandparents were known to me from the summer holiday when they would visit, and Christmas when we would go ‘up’ to visit relations in London (everyone else in our family).  Hence I remember odd things about each of them, the gran who taught me how to knit every time she visited more than once, leaving me a pair of knitting needles with a block and a half of a scarf started under her careful eye –  that I never finished. (I never did get on with knitting – which is strange as I’m into every other craft) The other gran who always seemed to wear a ‘traditional’ wrap-around pinny almost all day – which I found odd. One grandad always whistling a tune, the other always full of all sorts of information. In between visits they might talk on the phone with Mum and Dad … but I don’t ever remember talking to them on the phone.

image courtesy Ian Britton

My Aunt and her family moved to Australia in the early sixties. It might as well have been to the moon, back then. A phone call perhaps once a year – letters on birthdays with a photo slipped in with the card. The thought that they could fly back and visit was beyond imagining at that time.
When I went away to college – even though it was not very far away – the only contact my parents had with me during term time was the Sunday evening phone call, usually brief as there was frequently a queue at the hall of residence telephone box and it wasn’t done to keep others waiting forever!

Today, though my eldest son is in Malaysia, I see photographs of him and his family almost every week when they post them on facebook, and we have a skype video chat at the weekend, with the first and main portion being the grandchildren talking to granny! (and grandad when he’s around) They show me drawings, read to me, tell me how they are getting on at school, tease me, even try to tickle me … and I do similar mad stuff back. I have met and played with the boys, apart from the baby, and when we do meet every eighteen months or so, there isn’t that halting shyness as they’ve seen me every week. I am lucky, but I still miss the cuddles!

And then there’s my youngest son, also on the other side of the world, even where he is, on an island just off of Thailand, I am able to keep up-to-date with him via skype and facebook. We are so lucky!

And it is easy to think it is the same for everyone, but as I have been finding out from my niece on her blog (  one group of people who do not enjoy such an easy long distance relationship via the internet are those overseas in our armed forces. Hard to believe in this day and age – but true – even in Germany. It’s a very new blog – but well worth the visit.

So, do you keep up a long distance relationship with family or friends?

Is it easier for you now than it used to be ?

Do you remember the days when you had to queue for a public phone to call someone? – and then they had to be at home!

You know I love to hear from you – please share your thoughts


Enjoyed this blog? Please share :)