MORE to BROWSE - Pages that might be of Interest

Tuesday 31 July 2012

The voices.... Tuesday Talk

I am SO behind with everything because I had the most extraordinary weekend which has still left me reeling.
Tell you all about it soon.

Meanwhile here's something for you to ponder while I desperately catch up on being behind with my writing schedule....

Thursday 26 July 2012

The Thursday Thought:

With the Olympic Games starting tomorrow, athletes are coming to London in coach-loads.
 I heard the fireworks from the "dress rehearsal "  
opening ceremony the other night

the Olympic Park & Stadium is just over the back of us ... when you see views of the park from the many helicopters that are buzzing around 
(sigh, over my back garden)
 look out for the ROUND reservoir ..... my house is very near it.
Wave - you might see us walking the dog

Oh and immigration control is going to be VERY strict I hear...

Thursday 19 July 2012

The Thursday Amusing (not to be taken seriously) Thought

I went to Ikea last week with my daughter because we needed shelving/cupboards for our horsebox (the lorry has a living area - a bit like a caravan but with extra space for the horses at the back)

From experience we know that when you are parked up at a show for a couple of days you need shelving space, otherwise things like hairbrushes, mobile phones, gloves (needed in the show ring) etc get lost.

We eventually found what we needed - plus a few things we didn't need.
(Little mirrors shaped like horses????)

Then came the putting the shelves together and putting them up. Husband did a good job, and the shelves did their job over the weekend at the show we went to.

Then I remembered I had this, so thought I'd share the smile....

"I heard that IKEA put in a bid to take over one of the car manufacturing companies.
If they do, I bet you anything you like that there will be a little label somewhere in teeny tiny print, which you won't see until you get the self assembly box home....

Battery not included

Tuesday 17 July 2012

The Royal Oak - by Gillian Bagwell

The Royal Oak

It’s likely you may have seen a pub or something else called the Royal Oak, and not given it much thought. But do you know that there really was a Royal Oak—one single tree— which spawned so many namesakes?

In 1651, the young King Charles II of England— the exiled son of Charles I, who had been executed in 1649—made a valiant attempt to take back his throne. His defeat by Oliver Cromwell’s forces at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651 set off one of the most astonishing episodes in British history— Charles’s desperate odyssey to reach safety in France, which came to be known as the Royal Miracle because he narrowly escaped discovery and capture so many times.

One of Charles’s companions during his flight from Worcester on September 3 was the Earl of Derby, who had recently been sheltered at a house called Boscobel in Shropshire. He suggested that the king might hide there until he could find a way out of England. But also present was Charles Giffard, the owner of Boscobel. He said his house had been searched lately, and that it might be safer for the king to shelter at nearby Whiteladies, a former priory.

Charles and a few companions arrived at Whiteladies in the early morning hours of September 4. George Penderel, a woodsman who was a tenant there, and one of five surviving brothers of a staunchly Royalist family, sheltered the king—and his horse— in the house overnight. But Parliamentary cavalry patrols were searching for Charles, so at sunrise Richard Penderel, another of the brothers, took him into the woods surrounding Whiteladies, where he stayed all day, in the rain.

That evening, Charles and Richard Penderel walked nine miles to Madeley, hoping to cross the Severn River and get to Wales where Charles might find a boat that would take him to France or Spain. But the river was well guarded, and there was nothing for it but to return to Shropshire. 

Charles and Richard Penderel arrived at Boscobel House at about 3 a.m. on Saturday, September 6. As it happened, another Royalist who had escaped from the battle was also there—Colonel William Carliss, who Charles knew well. Once more it was thought too dangerous for the fugitives to stay inside the house during daylight hours. Boscobel was surrounded by woods, and as dawn was breaking, Carliss and the king, carrying some bread, cheese, and small beer, used William Penderel’s ladder to climb “up into a greate Oake that had been Lop’t some 3 or 4 Yeares before, and being growne out again very Bushy and Thick, could nott be seen through,” as Charles later told the diarist Samuel Pepys. From their perch, they could see “soldiers goeing up and downe in the thickest of the Wood, searching for persons escaped.” 

Charles had spent three days and nights with very little sleep, and now, with nothing to do but hide, he went to sleep on the broad branch of the oak, lying on a couple of pillows that had been handed up into the tree and resting his head on Carliss’s arm. After a while, Carliss’s arm grew so numb that he couldn’t hold onto Charles and keep him from falling out of the tree. He had to wake the king, but was worried that if he spoke, he might be heard by the searching soldiers. So he pinched the king, waking him silently.

Boscobel House

Charles and Carliss were not discovered, and when it was dark, they came down out of the tree—which came immediately to be known as the Royal Oak—and ravenously ate the chicken dinner that Mrs. Penderel had prepared. As it turned out, the 21-year-old king was on the run for six weeks, until he was able to sail for France from Shoreham near Brighton on October 15. During his perilous travels, he was sheltered and helped by dozens of people—mostly simple country folk and minor gentry—who could have earned the enormous reward of £1000 offered for his capture, but instead put their lives in jeopardy to help him.

When he was restored to the throne in 1660, the five Penderel brothers were among those he summoned to Whitehall to be honored and rewarded for their part in saving his life and the future of the monarchy. He gave Colonel Carliss permission to change his name to “Carlos,” i.e., Charles, and awarded him a coat of arms featuring an oak tree and three crowns. And he commissioned a series of paintings from Isaac Fuller depicting highlights of his escape—one of which showed him asleep in the Royal Oak with his head on Carliss’s lap.

Almost immediately people began cutting wood from the Royal Oak, to make souvenirs. Charles gathered acorns from it when he visited Shropshire in 1661, and planted them in St. James’s Park and Hyde Park. The tree eventually died, but a sapling that had grown from it was protected and cherished. Eventually it, too, succumbed, but one of its offshoots still stands, carefully fenced off, behind Boscobel House, now maintained by English Heritage.

On January 15, 1661, Pepys recorded in his diary that he “took barge and went to Blackwall and viewed the dock and the new Wet dock, which is newly made there, and a brave new merchantman which is to be launched shortly, and they say to be called the Royal Oak.” 

That ship was probably the first of many namesakes of the tree in which Charles had spent a day, but it was to be far from the last. There were eight ships of the Royal Navy named the Royal Oak, the last launched in 1914. There are numerous pubs and inns all over England called the Royal Oak, as well as some called Penderel’s Oak.

But the Royal Oak’s fame didn’t stop in England. There are many things called Royal Oak, in places where people likely don’t know the origin of the name. A quick Google search brings up a suburb of Detroit, Michigan; streets in Encino, California Wyoming, MI; Albuquerque, NM; Roswell, Georgia; and Vancouver, Canada; hotels in Adelaide and Sydney, Australia; pubs, bars, or restaurants in San Francisco and Napa in California, Brooklyn; Lewiston, Maine; Ottawa, Canada; a book shop in Virginia; a manufacturer of charcoal and grills in North Carolina; construction companies in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Canada, and Australia; a home developer in North Carolina and a realty company in San Rafael, California, and a flooring company in Australia.

Gillian Bagwell’s novel The King’s Mistress, the first fictional accounting of the story of Jane Lane, and ordinary English girl who helped Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester, will be released in the U.K. on July 19, 2012. (It was published in the U.S. in 2011 under the title The September Queen.)

Please visit Gillian’s website, to read more about her books and current projects. Her Blog Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle recounts her adventures researching the book and the daily episodes in Charles’s flight.

Helen: My thanks to Gillian for offering this superb article for my blog - I knew of King Charles hiding in the oak tree, but had no idea of the details!
As a point of interest, there are two pubs within my local area - one Royal Oak and one King's Oak (which is situated in Epping Forest)

American readers may not realise that English oaks are very different from American oaks. I was astonished to discover this when I visited the US - your oaks are somewhat tall and skinny, while ours are short and wide. And perversely, American acorns are short and wide, and British ones are long and skinny!

There is a slight connection between this post and my Sea Witch Voyages.... my pirate rogue is called Jesamiah Acorne, he wears a golden acorn earring. His father is called Charles... and his grandfather fought for Charles I - and was involved in Charles II's escape... all fiction of course, but in one of the future books of the series (probably Gallows Wake) you will discover how all these little things come together!

Gillian will be appearing again as a Guest on my Guest Blog during September when I have some special guests who will be attending the Historical Novel Society's London 2012 Conference
I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Conference Gillian - thank you again, most interesting!

Thursday 12 July 2012

Thursday Thoughts - in praise of the Rollicking Good Read

I had a lovely comment on my Facebook author's page this morning :

Carrie wrote: "Hi Helen I had read all your books bar the Cap Jesamiah Acorne which I didn't really think were my thing....but I am halfway though "Sea Witch" and I love it! Its such a rollicking good read..."

I am so thrilled at such kind words, (apart from because it's nice to receive compliments!) - you see the whole point of my Sea Witch Voyages is for the fun and adventure. I wanted to write something that I could have fun writing, and the reader have fun reading. Yes I agree historical fact should be fact, historical novels should be written with integrity, but the story itself is as important.

I personally feel that too many novels (and agents and publishers) have lost sight of the "rollicking good read" adventure: Winston Graham, Wilbur Smith, Dorothy Dunnet, Hammond Innes et al.
King Solomon's Mines - She - Poldark .... not necessarily historically accurate, but wow, what exciting adventures!

Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey novels are straight Nautical Historical - down to the nth detail, as are C.S. Forrester's Hornblower and Julian Stockwin's Kydd... excellent books but the Sea Witch Voyages are intended as escapism enjoyment - they are not meant to be taken seriously. (As the Pirates of the Caribbean movies weren't.)

I do try to get the "facts" right. I research my nautical "language" as much as possible, even though the biggest boat I've sailed in was a small 8 foot or so  Mirror dinghy. The historical settings I try to get right as well, but I admit to a bit of manipulation - ships in the early 1700's did not have copper-clad keels, for instance - Sea Witch does. But I make mention of these "deliberate errors" in my author's note.

My Jesamiah is also possibly too clean, and conditions aboard Sea Witch are more pleasant than in reality.... but that is the point, they are not meant to be real. The Voyages are Sailor's Yarns. Adventures where a white witch can call up a wind, where the Goddess of the Sea, and the ethereal spirit of the rain have their watery eyes on the charmer of a rogue who is the protagonist; where, maybe, mermaids and sea monsters will appear.

And where the ship herself, in her own way, is alive...

I hoped my readers would see these book's as good fun.
Thank you Carrie - mission accomplished I think!
Sea Witch is available in book or Kindle Format 
(also on Nook $3.99)

Kindle UK  £3.20
Paperback UK  £10.99

Kindle US  $4.96
Paperback US $18.50

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Life as an author - no time!

I'm chasing a deadline (which is about to whizz past )
 love that sound as they go by..... 

So here are a few things to make you smile.

Life as an author....

(my thanks to Cathy Helms of ....
I stole these from her FB site. 
No idea where she stole them from....

Thursday 5 July 2012

Thank Goodness for Imagination - Thursday Thoughts

Without imagination....

....There would be:

No stories,
No books,
No drama,
No talk,
No friendship at all.

Without Imagination
There would be:
No joy,
No tears,
No love,
No hate.
No reason to be, to do.

Without Imagination
There would be:

No dragons,
No knights,
No questions,
No answers.
No wonder about the stars,
No men landing on the moon.

Without Imagination
There would be:

Nothing at all.

H .Hollick

Feel free to add your own additions in the comment box below
 - what would we be without imagination? 

image above taken from the Internet

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Choosing and Using...

(Tuesday talk ) 
Part One
the Right (or Wrong) Font.

Recently, as the Historical Novel Society UK editor for Indie published books I have had several of my reviewers on the team comment about incorrect fonts used by Indie authors. And I recall a Tweet by an agent who rejected a submission because it was in Comic Sans font.
I thought that a bit harsh of the agent – does it matter if a submitted MS (be it an e-copy or hard copy on paper) is presented in Comic Sans?
Well apparently, yes it does, because regardless of the content, the ability of the writer, the agent didn’t even look at it, for the simple reason  (I have since discovered) that many people find it difficult to read Comic Sans. Although as I pointed out at the time, dyslexics and people with reading/sight difficulties prefer this font as it is easier for them to read (see below).

But yes, the type of font used when producing your book is very important – it can be the difference between accept or reject as far as your book is concerned.

The font sets the readability of your book. It attracts attention – or shuns it if you are using the wrong font. It defines the feel of the page.
You dress in your best clothes if you are attending a job interview – you want to impress, create the right image, show yourself as a smart professional. The same applies to the text of your novel! You want your reader to think (albeit subconsciously) “This is quality.”
To be honest, they probably won’t because avid book readers are usually not aware of the correct fonts used in traditional published books. They will, however, very much notice an incorrect font!
The correct font is important as the right typeface can encourage people to read what you have written. The wrong font can leave your hard work unread.

The font should be appropriate for the job it is doing, and is there 
to serve the text.
The words should be easy to read.

The Accepted Rules
(and yes I know rules are there to be broken – but some rules are there because of common sense and because they are tried and tested – and are the best option. We drive on the one side of the road because it is the Rule. If we didn’t there would be chaos.)
Fine, don’t stick with the rules, but expect your self published novel to be rejected by reviewers because to most readers it will look out of place, unproffesional and without that “quality” feel.

The text should be between 10 and 12 point.
Use the same typeface, type sizee for all of the main text (chapter headings etc can obviously be different).
Don't make your lines too short or too long. Optimum size: Over 30 characters and under 70 characters.
Make paragraph beginnings clear. Use an indent - except for the first line of a chapter. That should not be indented.
Use only one space after a full stop, not two.
Text should be set as fully justified in printed books – i.e. the margins on each side are straight, not ragged. (Websites, blogs and MS are usually left justified though.)
Don't underline headlines or subheadings. Use italics if you need to draw attention.
On a website or blog, don't set long blocks of text in italics, bold, or upper case because this is hard to read. 

Helen Hart, Publishing Director at SilverWood Books says:

" It is not just the choice of font that's important, it's the tiny measurements of space between each character and each line that makes a text readable, along with the numbers of characters per line and lines per page.These can usually only be achieved in professional page layout software, which is why laying out a book in Microsoft Word doesn't work - you don't have the tools to finesse the text in the way it needs to be finessed!
And unless a self-publisher is typesetting their own book (usually not something that works well unless they have some kind of professional training and access to the right software) they don't need to worry too much about this. A manuscript should be submitted to a publisher in something unfussy like Times New Roman 12pt double line spaced."

My UK books published by SilverWood Books are set in Palatino, which is a nice rounded serif font created in the 20th century. Very readable!
Helen Hart says: "Most book publishers will have a pallette of tried and trusted fonts which are selected for their readability. Among them will be Palatino, Sabon, Garamond, Baskerville and Swift. These fonts have one thing in common - they're simple, effective and lead the reading eye over the words so that the content can be easily absorbed by the reader."

So what are the Fonts?

Serif fonts have a little line at the end of each stroke. Some examples are:
Book Antiqua
Bookman Old Style
Times New Roman.

Serif fonts can be used for every part of your book. such as title, chapter titles, main text, contents table - everything. It is easy to read large blocks of Serif fonts printed text, and should be the only type of font used for the main body text of your book.
Except for Times New Roman, which was designed for newspaper printing presses in  the 1930’s 1932 and is not suitable for modern printed books. It can make your book appear unprofessional.

Non-serif fonts:
There is no little line at the end of each stroke in non-serif fonts.
Arial and
Helvetica the most basic of the sans-serif fonts
Trebuchet MS

These are appropriate for the title, chapter headings, headers, footers, subheadings and short lines of text, such but they are not ideal for use as the entire chapter of text or large blocks of text, such as an introduction because the font is not easily readable in a printed format

Text on the Computer Screen:
Note – reading text on a screen is very different to reading text in a printed book. If your text looks pretty good on screen in a sans-serif font, it’s readability could be very different when it appears in your printed novel (or submitted MS!)

Decorative fonts:
Are for design and artwork -  for the titles on the cover, and maybe sub titles Part One, etc. Be careful – what may look good on your computer can look terrible in your printed book.

Bold and Italics:
Need bold or italics added to your text? Make sure you use a true bold or italic font – i.e. that the font has a different font set as a normal, bold, and italic face. If it doesn’t have this capability a “fake” bold or italic will be applied and the quality of print in the final actual version could be corrupted.

Comic Sans:
So what is wrong with Comic Sans?
The word “comic” should tell you all you need to know.
It is a perfectly adequate design for children, comic books or cartoons, but it has no place in professional work. It is ill-suited for large amounts of text.
Two very good articles which will tell you more:

A font such as Comic Sans is preferable to dyslexics, and people with sight problems.
“Serif fonts, with their ‘ticks’ and ‘tails’ at the end of most strokes (as found in traditional print fonts such as Georgia or Times New Roman), tend to obscure the shapes of letters, so sans-serif fonts are generally preferred. Many dyslexic people also find it easier to read a font that looks similar to hand writing as they are familiar with this style, and some teachers prefer them. However these types of fonts can lead to confusion with some letter combinations, such as “oa” and “oo”; “rn” and “m”.”
quote from

Unfortunately, people who are not dyslexic, and can therefore read easily, do not understand the problems dyslexics have.  Many dyslexics use Comic Sans on screen – which is why they can read from the computer, but not from a printed book. I have a dyslexic husband and daughter – both cannot read very well.
And of course Kindle is popular because the reader can change the font to what is more comfortable for them.
But, as most agents and avid readers of printed books are not dyslexic, stick to the accepted formats if you want to be taken seriously as a writer.

My first edition of Sea Witch was printed in Comic Sans because I use that font at home on the PC. It didn’t occur to me to change it before I sent the finished MS to my small Indie Publisher with their even smaller mainstream imprint. I assumed they would set the typeface in house style. It never occurred to me that they would simply print what I submitted! (It came as a bit of a shock I can tell you!) This is another reason to take care if using Indie Publishing Companies. Choose a good one who will produce your book to a professional, quality, standard. And take note – Create Space, Lulu, Kindle – are basically printers, not publishers.
The end result will be what you submit.
Comic Sans included.

Part Two - coming soon
Choosing and Using the right cover