Sandra Lawson RIP

This is hard.

I’d known Sandra Lawson casually for three years. In February of this year I got to know her much better. My wife had been in hospital for almost two months and I had no idea when she would be well enough to come home. I built my time around visiting but eventually I thought to myself, I shall have to plan to have one day a week for myself.

A couple of days later Sandra came up to me. ‘You’re coming with me to Valbonne on Thursday,’ she said. ‘I run a knitting group there. It’s a nice ride, if the weather is good we can have the top down. We’ll have lunch, and while I’m running the group you can look round the town.’

This was typical of the thoughtful, kind, caring and imaginative person she was.

For me it was a life-saver.

I went with her a couple of times more and then Janine came home. Sandra took her under her wing, encouraged her in her knitting and took her to Valbonne. We became great friends.

Sandra would always say, ‘If you ever need anything, I’m here.’

And now she’s not. On Tuesday I got a phone call to say that Sandra had died of a heart attack. I was stunned, as has been everyone who heard.

Today is Sandra’s funeral. Knowing her made my world a bigger, brighter, better place. It did the world.

Rest in peace, Sandra.


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Martin Lake:

This is a useful thing to pin to an author’s desktop.

Originally posted on madgeniusclub:

There’s a whole lot of mis- being thrown around the internet these days. Seems like men can’t make a move without being accused of being a misogynist, which leads to the accusers being accused of misandry… and then Mike Hoover made this word up, and I am running with it.

Mislectorist: being an author who hates (or at least dislikes, disdains, and disregards) their readers. This leads to poor behaviors on the author’s part, and support of tactics by publishers and other support staff that leaves readers out in the cold.

Young Male Readers

This is what you want to see: attracting young readers and keeping them hooked for life.

There are several ways we can see mislectorism manifested. This one hit the interwebs hard yesterday: a literary agent (one who is, in theory anyway, responsible for seeing that only good books make it through the gates to reach publishers and from there, readers)…

View original 854 more words

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The Joy of Editing

It’s been an interesting August. The reason? I spent several weeks of it editing ‘A Love Most Dangerous.’

As I wrote in an earlier blog Lake Union Publishing approached me to take on my latest novel and re-launch it in the spring of 2015. One of the things which was most appealing about the offer was the chance to have the book edited in a thorough-going manner.

It was a fascinating process and I learned a lot from it. It was engrossing, challenging, frustrating, fun, illuminating, annoying and exhausting. It’s been a long time since I spent eight hours at a desk with hardly a break and only a gecko for company.

gecko My chum and assistant Garibaldi Gecko.


I’m confident that the book has been greatly improved by the process. My editor was brilliant, creative, fun, full of ideas and sensible suggestions. I was particularly grateful that she was a novelist as it made for a productive and respectful two-way process.

The next step is the copy-edit.

I’ve learned a lot from things so well. But I have to say that I prefer writing to editing. CA_GD_LAKE_final_2(2)



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A Love Most Dangerous to be published by Lake Union Publishing

I have been an Indie author now since April 2011 and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the steep learning curve which has come with it. Three weeks ago I got an email out of the blue from one of Amazon’s own imprints saying they would like to publish ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ as one of their titles.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d almost deleted the email thinking it was spam and now I read it again and again. Over the next few days I had a series of very helpful conversations and emails with the Acquisitions Manager I was dealing with.

A few years ago I would have swum to Seattle to agree the deal but since I’ve been an Indie I’ve come to value my independence highly. After a series of discussions I decided to accept Lake Union’s offer because they can offer expertise which will be very useful and, equally importantly, they are happy to work with me in a collaborative manner. They will also make the book available in print.

So, I’m now what Bob Mayer (I think) first called a Hybrid author. My other books will continue to be self-published; I give Lake Union first refusal on my next book and can continue to sell ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ until they are ready to re-launch it.

In the meanwhile I have two editors who are going to work with me to polish up the book plus all the extras which Amazon’s publishing houses can offer. CA_GD_LAKE_final_2(2)

If only my Mum was still here to tell.

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A Love Most Dangerous reduced in price in UK Kindle Discount Deal

Between Friday 4 July and Sunday 6 July ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ is reduced in price from £2.45 to 99p on Kindle from Take a look and tell your friends.


Here is the link to the book.

You don’t need Kindle to read it, you can get the free Kindle app for your PC or tablet. Tell your friends.

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Alice and the King #HistNov #SampleSunday

Susan Dunster and Mary Zouche were already in the dining room when we arrived.
‘Are you hungry?’ I asked with an attempt to sound stern at the fact that they had entered before me.

‘Starving hungry,’ Susan said, not noticing my tone, or choosing not to. ‘This dreary weather leaves nothing to do except eat.’

‘You should take up a pastime,’ I said. ‘Like Mary or me.’

‘I have pastimes enough, thank you.’ She half closed her eyes, making her face look sly and deceitful. ‘I am quite content to think and plot.’

I laughed at the face she pulled. ‘Thinking and plotting may get you in trouble.’
‘It hasn’t so far,’ she said with a chuckle. ‘It’s all been rather good fun.’

I sat at the table and the servants glided over with the food. It was delicious as always. A hearty thick beef stew with little onions and pickled red cabbage. Fresh white bread with butter as rich as cream. A syllabub with a raspberry preserve on the side.The wine was even better, a light red from the Loire valley. The valley of kings Sir Thomas Cromwell called it, the loveliest place on earth. How appropriate for the mistress of a king to choose a wine from such a desirable place.

We talked lightly over dinner. The latest gossip, of course, concerned Anne, the sister of the Duke of Cleves. She had already set out from from Flanders, wondering no doubt if her fate would be as awful as those of his first three wives. Others had, from all report. One at least said that she did not have enough heads to run the risk.

My friends thought my nose would be put out of joint at the thought of him taking anew wife. Not a bit of it. I had long worried that he might ask me to sit upon the poison throne. Thank goodness his advisers would not countenance such favour to an orphan of a family that had only narrowly scrambled into gentry. I don’t think the King desired it over much either. Far better to keep me as his mistress, to take his pleasure and then put me aside until the itch in his loins reminded him of my existence.

I swear that I must have fairy blood in me. No sooner had I thought this than the door opened to reveal my Page Humphrey. ‘Henry wants you,’ he said. ‘He’s just come down from Hampton Court. Right hungry he is, so I’m told.’

‘I’ll box your ears if you talk in this fashion,’ I said. I caught a glimpse of Sissy looking distraught at my words. She was more and more moon-struck every day. The thought crossed my mind as it ever did, whether these two had consummated their love already.

Susan smiled at Humphrey’s words. ‘Right hungry,’ she repeated.

I could only just keep a similar smile from my face. It was no good; I could never manage my closest servants like a lady should. They could play the game right enough in front of visitors, and for that I was thankful. But when we were here all alone, they seemed to forget themselves. And so did I.

‘I’ve a good mind to make you run behind the carriage, Susan Dunster,’ I said.
‘And you know I’d be glad to do it,’ she said.

I pursed my lips. I would not be surprised if she did. Mary and her were the most loyal friends anybody could ask for. No small feat in a court as dangerous as King Henry’s.

The horses seemed lethargic as they made their way down the winding drive towards Greenwich Palace. It was only a mile distant but the horses could barely be encouraged into a trot. I forbade the drivers to use a whip. I hated whips. So we were at the mercy of the brutes and today, they seemed intent on moving slowly.
Perhaps I was as foolish a mistress of my horses as I was of my servants.

At length we reached the Palace and I made my way towards the King’s privy chambers. His groom, Nicolas Frost was waiting for me. ‘What the devil kept you?’ he demanded.

‘I haven’t got wings,’ I said with a smile.

‘Well you’re no angel, certainly.’ He smiled back at me. I don’t know when we had grown quite so familiar but there was no returning to the more formal situation of our first acquaintance.

‘What mood is he in?’ I asked.

‘A joyful one, heaven be praised.’ He gave me a knowing smile. ‘As always, of course.’

‘Of course. I just wished to know how rapturous was his joy.’

‘You’ll find out, Alice,’ Frost said. ‘He’s in his privy chamber.’

I followed Frost through the suite of rooms and into the King’s privy chamber. He was lounging in a chair with his hands behind his head, as if in the most lovely of summer day-dreams. 170px-Hans_Holbein,_the_Younger,_Around_1497-1543_-_Portrait_of_Henry_VIII_of_England_-_Google_Art_Project

‘Ah, Alice,’ he said. ‘You’ve arrived.’

‘I came as soon as I heard your summons,’ I said.

He nodded and waved his hand for me to join him.

‘I have had a busy fortnight,’ he said. ‘Much coming and going of ambassadors. Many tedious meetings with Master Cromwell. He is like a nervous chicken at the moment, skittish as anything you could find on a farm.’

I smiled at his words. I could not imagine Sir Thomas Cromwell being either skittish or nervous.

‘I see the Baron as more of a goose,’ I said. ‘All inquisitiveness and righteous anger.’

The King slapped his thigh. ‘Oh I like that, Alice. I must tell him what you say.’
‘I’m not sure I should like that,’ I said quickly.

‘I don’t see why not. You can’t tell me you’re fearful of him. You’re a rarity in the kingdom because of it. You know you have him eating out of your hands.’

‘If you say so, Your Grace.’

‘I do say so. I witness it with my own eyes.’

‘I hope you’re not jealous, Majesty?’

He laughed. ‘What need do I have of being jealous? You are the two people who I trust most in all the world.’

I smiled despite the chill which such words caused in my heart. The more the King spoke of trust the more people thought of the scaffold.

A Love Most Dangerous is available on Amazon Kindle. CA_GD_LAKE_final_2(2)

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Sunrise, Moonset

It’s 5.45 in the morning. The sun has not yet risen but it is painting the few fluffs of cloud a myriad of colours. Some are a delicate pink, others a whipped cream, a few dark and ominous. The night sky has gone now but the full glare of the summer sky has not appeared. It is a gentle, filmy blue; a water-colour sky.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To the west the full moon is beginning to set. It is large and bright, like a sixpence nailed to the sky. It is a whole cheese, certainly, a white cheese, a Brie or a Camembert. Maybe a very young Cheddar. The seas are dark and vivid, a happy face with a lop-sided smile.

The moon has been queen for the night. I get the impression that she’ll find the young sun rather brash and tiresome. She’ll be happy to retire for the day.

No cockerel welcomes the dawn here. The raucous screams of seagulls punctuate the cooing of the collared dove which perches on our terrace. What is it calling to, the sun or the moon? Or the dim cry of its mate in the far distance?

There is a cool wind today. The heat-wave is, perhaps, over. A turning point.

Sunrise, Moonset.

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A Sale in India

Whoopie – I’ve sold my first book in India. A Love Most Dangerous.

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Alice Petherton. The opening of the next novel. #histnov #writing

Here is the opening of my new Alice Petherton novel.


‘For goodness sake stop that awful caterwauling,’ I said.

Sissy looked up at me in alarm. ‘I was only humming, Alice. It was a little song.’
‘Well it’s a very irritating little song.’

She bit her lip. ‘Sorry. It’s just I don’t notice when I’m doing my needlework.’

I shook my head in exasperation and turned back to my notebook. I could not find the right word. The verse was almost finished and I was pleased with it. But I needed a word to describe how the maid felt when she first saw her lover. No word was right. Some sounded too ridiculous, the ravings of a love-sick child. Others sounded too cold, too austere to describe a real true love. I wanted the woman to be a woman not an ice-maiden. And I did not want her to spout words like some scholar who had read of love in dusty volumes but never experienced it.

I put down my pen. Was the difficulty because I had never truly felt love in my own heart? I felt myself frown as I thought back on these last two years. Oh, I had known plenty much of love-making. Despite his age and injury the King was boisterous and demanding when he felt in the mood for pleasure. But how much had I known of love?

The King sometimes told me that he loved me. But this was in rare moments, the times when he let his guard down. Perhaps it was when he was hot with lust and intent on wooing me, or perhaps because he was distracted by some passing thought and forgot he must ever play the King. Or perhaps because we had just made love and for a moment he was a little more besotted with me.

But had I loved him? That was the question. Had I loved any man? Unbidden the image of Art Scrump came to my mind. I dismissed it at once. It was best not to go there. Best not to uncover that nest of baby birds and hissing vipers.

I thought back to the King. Had I loved him ever? Did I love him now?

It seemed a silly question as I asked it, a foolish notion altogether. Of course I did not love him. I was his mistress, his bed-fellow; that was all. And he was my protector, my shield. My master in every way. Pay-master, bed-master, lord and master.
Could a servant truly love her master? Could a hound? Yes, a hound could. But a kitten? Now there was a different matter entirely.

‘How’s the poem going, Alice?’ Sissy asked shyly.

‘Not very well.’

‘Ah, I’m sorry. You write such lovely songs.’

‘They’re not songs, Sissy. They’re poems. How many times do I have to tell you?’

She bit her lip, her face contrite. ‘I’m sorry, Miss. It’s just hard for me to understand. When you read them they sound a bit like songs.’

‘But they’re not songs.’

‘Why not though? I bet Mary could set them to music. Then they’d sound much better.’

I opened my mouth to remonstrate but thought better of it. Sissy would never understand the difference between poetry and songs. To be very honest I wasn’t sure I could explain it either. I would have to ask Sir Thomas Wyatt.

‘Where is Mary?’ I asked.

‘She’s with Susan in the sitting room. They thought you’d best be left in peace to get on with your songs.’

‘Poems, Sissy, poems.’

‘Yes, Alice.’ She put down her needle-work. ‘Shall I get them? Shall I tell them you’ve finished?’ She looked out of the window. ‘Oh look. It must be nearly time for dinner. How this day has flown.’

I glanced out of the window. The sky was a murky, grey colour, mud-brown. I hated this time of year. The lovely colours of autumn had flown away and the dull dank days of November had settled on the world with all their sullen misery. It had been a particularly dreary November this year. Brooding, heavy clouds blanketed the sky without even the relief of rain. On a few days the wind had whipped up and blown the sky clear. But within hours the clouds had crept back; darker, more determined. It lowered my spirits.

‘When will Christmas come?’ I wondered aloud.

‘Not long now,’ Sissy cried. ‘It’s Advent Sunday tomorrow.’

‘So it is.’ My heart sank. This meant it would be an exceptionally long sermon tomorrow, even more so as the priest would want to impress the Archbishop who was coming to the Palace. At least he was courteous company.

Sissy got up and stood over me. She had that quiet determined look which she had developed of late. ‘It is dinner time, Alice,’ she said. ‘They’ll be waiting to serve.’
Waiting on me, I thought. Even after a year I could not quite reconcile myself to the fact that I was mistress of Greenwich Castle.

‘Come along then,’ I said. ‘Let’s join the others.’


I’m about 20,000 words into the first draft of the new novel. Lots of new characters and a deadly peril for Alice.

CA_GD_LAKE_final_2(2)This novel begins two years after the end of A Love Most Dangerous.

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Two words I always struggle to spell correctly are yacht and rhythm.  It took me three attempts to write rhythm correctly and I gave up on yacht and used the spell checker.  (I’ve had to do it a second time already.)

When I was a child I saw a drawing of a yacht in a picture book and was captivated by it. I loved the idea of the tiny hull with the huge, graceful sail soaring above it.  Whenever we had rabbit stew I would fish out the rib-cage and pretend it was the remains of a dinosaur and another bone that looked like the sail of a yacht which I would hold aloft as I ran around the house. (We were not a rich family.) Now that I live on the French Riviera I delight to watch the yachts as they glide across the water.

But I did not come here to write about yachts. I came to write about rhythm and more specifically the rhythm of writing. By this I mean the stages of writing which I prefer to call rhythm.

In theory I write in these stages: 1. Research and Planning. 2. Write the book. 3. Edit. Nice, simple and neat.

But that’s not the reality. In practice I write more like this: 1. Research and Planning. 2.Write first draft and still carry on researching. I also edit throughout this stage as each morning I normally re-read what I’ve written the day before to iron out any errors, typos, characters changing names, shapes, personalities etc. 3. Edit and then 4. Rewrite.

So that’s one rhythm. It’s much more organic and fluid than the simple three-stage model I have in my mind before I start writing.

It’s the second aspect of rhythm which is much more tricky. This is because between stages 2. Writing and 3. Editing I like to rest the book. It gives me a break from the full-on writing stage and, even more importantly, gives me distance from what I’ve written so that I can come back to it with a fresher eye.

The difficulty is what to do in this period. Do I start a new novel? Or do I merely research a new novel and put this on hold while I go back and edit the one I’m ‘working on.’ This means that the new novel has an awfully long gap between Stage 1 and Stage 2.  Researching and writing a new novel means that there is an even longer gap between Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the previous novel.

I’ve tried both and even tried the straight through method although I don’t think this works as well or me as I need the break before I start doing an edit.

It’s a conundrum which I’m going through now as I’ve just finished writing the first draft of ‘Scarecrow Army’ (working title) and can’t stop thinking, researching and planning the second instalment of Alice Petherton.

Talking of which, I was playing with a Pinterest board for ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ and came across this picture: 220px-Nicolas_Bourbon,_by_Hans_Holbein




Now he’s a cool looking guy and he shouted at to me to use him in my new book. What will he think of Alice? And what will she think of him?

I’ve just found out that he may have been a poet called Nicholas Bourbon who went to Henry VIII’s court to thank him and Anne Boleyn for their help.

Now this is research by serendipity. I like it.

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