Monthly Archives: February 2012

AGENT ZIGZAG by Ben Mackintyre

Ben Macintyre’s AGENT ZIGZAG is a gripping account of a double-agent during World War Two, who must have been incredibly charming, because not only did he acquire three girlfriends waiting patiently for him in London, Oslo and the countryside of England, but he also managed to convince the German secret service that he was loyal to Hitler. Never once did he falter when closely questioned by various German officers. His courage and coolness are stunning when one considers what would have happened to him if his cover had been blown. And when one considers that at the time he was acting as a double-agent he was only in his late twenties.

I won’t spoil the story by telling you what happens to Agent Zigzag (the brilliant name that MI5 gave him) aka Fritz or Fritzchen (the name that the Abwehr gave him) aka Eddie Chapman (his real name). But if you are suffering from insomnia and have nothing else to do, read this book. It won’t cure the insomnia, because it’s too exciting for that. But it will while away the hours. Five stars.

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Welcome to my first Goodreads Giveaway!

Everyone,

I am really excited about my first Goodreads Giveaway, scheduled to start TOMORROW, Wednesday, February 29! If you have nothing better to do on this extra day of the year:) head over to Goodreads to join in. You will get a SIGNED COPY of TWO MURDERS REAPED, my novel about the family saga of the Yorks, Lancasters & Nevilles whose family feud started the Wars of the Roses. Told by Cecylee Neville, the Thwarted Queen. MURDERS is the last volume in the 3-volume paperback set that makes up THWARTED QUEEN (for those of you who prefer reading paperbacks). Help to make this a success, and stay tuned for more giveaways of my other volumes on Goodreads!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Two Murders Reaped by Cynthia Sally Haggard

Two Murders Reaped

by Cynthia Sally Haggard

Giveaway ends March 02, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

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Monday Tips: How to Avoid Burnout

Those of you who do yoga, or play the piano, or do a sport know that you have to be patient. Some days are better than others. And it is vitally important to know when to back off, otherwise you could injure yourself.

So it is with book publishing. You have to force yourself to do less than you want to because otherwise you are going to burn out.

Every day, I force myself to carve out two hours in the morning so that I can devote them to my writing. I could easily spend that time marketing my novel. I could easily spend time marketing my novel 24/7.

But I have a husband to think of. And friends. And various other commitments in my life. It is frustrating to come home at 6pm, feeling that you haven’t done much with your day. Naturally, evenings are when I get most of my work done. For example, here I am on a Sunday evening typing this sentence. At two minutes to nine.

But I’m going to quit soon. Not later than 10 pm. So that I can get a good night’s sleep. Don’t forget to do the same for yourself.

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A VINTAGE AFFAIR by Isabel Wolff

A VINTAGE AFFAIR is the story of a friendship that ended in tragedy. Or rather, two friendships that ended in tragedy, both causing a tremendous amount of survivor guilt to both women involved. One story takes place in France during the second world war. The other is a contemporary story set in present-day London. But author Isabel Wolff is a talented story-teller who manages to weave these plot threads together in a way that does not seem cliched or predictable. And although I am generally not fond of contemporary fiction (I tend to find it too depressing), I did enjoy getting to know the protagonist Phoebe Swift, who not only opens a vintage clothing store in London, but also goes on a emotional roller-coaster of a ride during this novel.

If you love reading about the recent past, especially about beautiful clothes, and if you enjoy reading something that will stir your emotions and cause you to think, this is the book for you. Perfect for a curl up by the fire during one of those cold days we are having now.  Five stars.

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Monday Tips: Get an Early Start

I find that if I start working early in the morning my day seems to go a whole lot more easily. (And this is coming from someone who didn’t like to get out of bed!)

But I find my life as a self-publisher so exciting, that I often find that I’m getting out of bed earlier than I planned, because I have something on my mind and I want to get on with it.

Sometimes, I get started at 6 am.

Well, I don’t have a commute, so that save’s me about an hour. I make myself some tea and settle down to get some things done before the phone starts ringing. I have found that I can clear my desk and still have time for major projects like making a movie by starting early.

If you feel overwhelmed right now, why not try it?

The catch (of course) is that you have to go to bed early, to get enough sleep. Which is very important:)

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THE SILVER LOCKET by Margaret James

Margaret James’ THE SILVER LOCKET is the story of a spirited young woman on the eve of World War One who decides that she can no longer bear the tedium of waiting to be married to the right gentleman, and leaves home to become a nurse during the war.

What is really great about this novel is the detail about what nursing was like during the 1914-18 war. What is less great is the plot, which provides the predictably unpredictable happy ending. What really needs work is the pacing of the story, which doesn’t work at all. What I mean by that is that events happen suddenly and abruptly with no setup. For example, when Rose returns to her home in Dorset with Phoebe’s baby, her mother immediately assumes that it must be hers. When Rose protests that it isn’t, her mother won’t believe her.

The problem with this is that the reader isn’t given much basis for judging this incident. We know that there are the inevitable mother-daughter tensions, and that Rose’s mother wants her to marry well, whereas Rose would prefer to educate herself. But we don’t get much interior monologue, because the book is replete with tells, in which Ms. James tells the reader what to think. In the example below, the tells appear in BLOCK CAPS.

“Mummy, don’t be ridiculous!” ROSE COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT SHE WAS HEARING. SHE SHOOK HER HEAD AS IF TO CLEAR IT. “This is not my child! I wasn’t pregnant, I—”
“You expect me to believe you?” Lady Courtenay turned her head away.
“Mummy, pregnant women are enormous, they have bulging stomachs, they—”
[At this point, Rose’s mother makes a long speech.]

This passage would have been better if it had been re-written as follows:

“Mummy, don’t be ridiculous!” Rose scrutinized her mother’s face. Where was that warm smile she’d come to expect? Why was Mummy staring at her in that way? Her light blue eyes had gone cold, the color of an icy lake. Rose’s stomach clenched.
“You expect me to believe you?” Lady Courtenay turned away.
She moved closer. “Mummy, pregnant women are enormous, they have bulging stomachs, they—”
But Frances Courtenay wouldn’t look at her daughter. She twisted her white hands, pulling and tugging at her jeweled rings.

The result of using tells as opposed to interior monologue means that we don’t really know in detail what Rose thinks about her mother, or what her mother thinks about Rose. And so this clash seems abrupt, jarring and not believable. Three stars.

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Why not give yourself a special treat this Valentine’s Day?

(Time for some shameless self-promotion:)

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Why not give yourself a special treat and immerse yourself in an era where high fashion meant pointed headdresses with fluttering silk veils, where gentlemen greeted ladies with a courtly flourish, and where everything was handmade and homemade?

It is the summer of 1441. Cecylee is twenty-six years old and has been married to Richard, Duke of York for four years. Richard has just assumed the role of Governor of Normandy, and he, Cecylee, and their entire household have crossed the channel to take up residence in Rouen, the capital of English France.

During that summer, Richard sets off for Pontoise to teach the French a lesson. Cecylee is left to hold court in the castle of Rouen with the wives of Richard’s generals. Nicknamed The Rose of Raby on account of her beauty, Cecylee’s life laps placidly onward during those sleepy days of high summer, when suddenly, a mysterious young man appears. She soon loses her heart to this charming stranger.

Cecylee’s private name for him is M. Beaujambs, because of his long, and very shapely legs, but history knows him as Blaybourne. Who is he? Is he an aristocrat of the House of Savoy? Or the son of a humble blacksmith? And if the latter, where did he get his exquisite manners? And his university education? And what is he doing in Rouen? By turns baffled and enchanted, Cecylee finds herself confronted by an intriguing challenge.

What happens when Cecylee’s husband discovers she’s had a love-affair with an archer? Does he lock her up? Or worse?

Give yourself a treat and find out by clicking here.

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Welcome to my first YouTube Video

Finally, I’ve done it.

After TWO MONTHS of trying, I have a video on YouTube that explains how I first started to write about Cecylee.

After two months of learning about lighting, photography, writing movie scripts, learning how to control a video camera so that the result doesn’t give your audience a headache…

Well,here it is. Her ladyship is delighted!

 

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MADONNA OF THE SEVEN HILLS by Jean Plaidy

Jean Plaidy’s MADONNA OF THE SEVEN HILLS is a novel about the girlhood of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Roderigo Borgia, who later became Pope Alexander VI.

Lucrezia Borgia is famous for having an incestuous relationship with her brother Cesare, and for having a hollow ring which she would use to slip poison into the drinks of those she did not like. However, these tales were put about by the enemies of the Borgias, and it is not known how much truth there is to these rumors. In her novel, Jean Plaidy portrays Lucrezia Borgia as a gold-haired innocent, naively unaware of the treachery of her nearest and dearest, which includes not only her father the Pope, but also her two elder brothers Cesare and Giovanni.

The story begins with the birth of Lucrezia in 1482 and gradually moves forward through her early years until the age of nine, when she meets 14-year-old Giulia Farnese and they become best of friends. Giulia is the bride of Orsino Orsini, the son of Lucrezia’s foster-mother Adriana. But it is not long before Lucrezia’s father becomes enamored of the young beauty. He is 59 and she is still only 14, when she becomes his mistress.

Jean Plaidy is a talented author who knows how to keep a reader glued to the page with a gripping story. But there is one glaring problem: Ms Plaidy does not handle POV issues well. It seems strange that a book published by Random House would have this problem. One would think that the editors would have done something about it. Perhaps it is because this book was originally published in 1958, and the standard of writing is much higher nowadays. Whatever the reason, Ms. Plaidy is guilty of the sin of head-hopping which both makes her characters less vivid and also is confusing to read. Nevertheless, if you love reading about Renaissance Italy, this tale is sure to please. Five stars for the story, 1 star for head-hopping, making this 3 stars.


 

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Tips & Tidbits from the Internet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a couple of things that I thought were interesting.

  • From Charlie’s Diary, here are some common misperceptions about publishing: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/02/common-misconceptions-about-pu.html. Charlie Stross has a fine mind and many insightful things to say.

 

Have a wonderful week!

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