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26 March 2015

back in 2008, I sent the Reader’s Digest Smart Animal’s section a true tale about my Jersey Cow. It appeared, I was paid, and that was that. However I like animals, I enjoy animal stories (as do a number of my friends and family,) and when the above book was published I finally got around to buying a copy. What was my surprise on reading it to find my story therein, with a new title, and with no one having bothered to let me know it was being reprinted. In fact they’ve shot themselves in the foot slightly. I tend to start buying birthday presents/christmas presents for the forthcoming year for friends and family as soon as New year has gone.
But by now it’s late March and I already have several of each. Which means that, had I been courteously informed of the reuse of my work, I would have bought at least 2 more copies of this book to give as presents. Maybe even 4 or more. But now I don’t think I will. I’m annoyed by the discourtesy, and disinclined to add to their profits. And the thought occurs to me too, if they couldn’t be bothered to tell me, and there are a VERY long list of contributors in that book, how many other sales have they lost because some will feel as I do? Annoying those who are contributors and usually subscribers too, is not a great idea.

Apart from the ‘a bit over an inch’ of rain we got here from Cyclone Pam, March continued to be a dry month. That’s approved by most of my creatures that prefer to be warm and dry given a choice of weather. It isn’t the preference of farmers however and the level of complaint is rising. Sigh. How pleasant it would be if that affected the weather. Problem is that the city population would, I suspect, and like the creatures, also prefer it dry, so if the weather did listen to the majority we could well live in a permanent drought. Guess that makes what does happen more acceptable. But if anyone is listening, a bit more rain would be useful, not a flood, just maybe 4-5 inches worth, also known as 100-125mls please over April. Er, it’d make a nice birthday present because my age changes April 3rd.

Hardcover, published Bantam 2015. And yes, the title’s a pun.
I’m sorry to say that this series is only just holding me. It is now more the cumulative effect of the books and characters that makes me keep reading than the impact of each book. I like the characters, and yet their hold too is slowly fading. I found that the two books before this one were weaker, less of an engrossing story and more of a meander through faux-history. If the next is no stronger, then it is likely that I will not only stop purchasing them, but I will give that last four to my local library and keep only the series up to and including The God of the Hive. It happens. Another author whose books I loved lost me a couple of years ago when she switched main characters from mother to son and to me anyhow her books lost my interest totally with that switch. I do however cherish the 15 previous to that switch and will continue to read and re-read them. Likewise with Ms. King. I’ll have the first ten books, which I love and will keep.
So, in Dreaming Spies Mary and Sherlock are on the way to America, to check up on some long-neglected business relating to Mary’s family, when they break the trip with a stopover in Japan. But before they arrive there they become involved with a young Japanese woman, and with a notorious clubman, The Earl of Darnley who is known to Sherlock as a blackmailer, Darnley’s young wife and his adult son, and the possibility of spies, international blackmail, and the Emperor of Japan.
This book is sweet and rather gentle, officially it ticks all the boxes, it suggests a fore-view of what in another twenty years will be the foundation of world war two, it has Sherlock and Mary immersed in a very different culture with a quite in-depth look at that, and then it has them back in Oxford with odd events and dangerous people. It has deceit, mystery, minor mayhem, and scholarship. Still it never quite caught me up into the story. I think that this is because the last three books have been more about the cultures that background the books, more as if the author wants to introduce me to these cultures, than involve me in an exciting mystery/crime, and I read mysteries for the whodunnit aspects, not to be taught about a culture I may not know.In fact I have known, and that has made much of that aspect slightly boring. This series continues to be well-written, but as I say, I read whodunnits, and for the fast-paced, catch-me-up interest, not for social studies. One more of that type, and that’s me, gone.

14 March 2015

currently I’m irked by the weather report. Today and maybe tomorrow I’d planned to clear up blogs and submissions due, then on Monday go back to the new book I’m writing and which I hope to have finished before the end of next month. This programme may not be assisted by Cyclone Pam, said to possibly hit my area around late Sunday night/Monday morning. Newspaper reports suggest it could create as much devastation as Bola, which hit in the 80s and wrecked half the east coast. So between blog and submissions this weekend I’ll be outside battening down the hatches, and hoping Pam really isn’t a visitor here, holding up the book, annoying the geese, putting the hens off laying, and leaving me with a cat that’ll complain the whole time because he wants to go out into his cat park – and it’s blowing a cyclone, raining buckets, and… it’s all my fault. Sigh. On the other hand I have some hope. It’s my experience that when the forecast is that most of the country is going to get beaten up, we find here that it’s no more than we usually get, just wet and windy. I can live with that – and so can the cat.

While flat out writing a new book, revising a story collection, and keeping an eye on the farm, sales and publications in my short work have also been nicely on the boil. As follows –
GIVE OLD JARS A NEW LEASE OF LIFE in Dannevirke News, Saturday January 17th 2015.
FAST, EASY WAYS TO COOK WITH MINCE apeared Dannevirke News, Saturday Jan.24th 2015.
MY WATCH-GEESE appeared ANIMALS’ VOICE (SPCA qurtly) Autumn (March) 2015.
and today I signed contracts for my story POLLY AND JOHNNY sold to STORY EMPORIUM anthology. And no, I’m not getting into any ruts with what I write.

Trade-paperback, published Baen, August 2014.
Just a very quick review on this one. I’ve always liked the Honor Harrington series, and this is the third book of a trilogy that harks back to Honor’s ancestor, Stephanie Harrington and telling of how she first met a treecat in her planet’s wilderness and how they became inseparable friends. Anyone who loves cats will like this trio beginning with A Beautiful Friendship, going on to Fire Season, and culminating in TreeCat Wars. The three books are classified as YA, presumably as a marketing tool to sell more to school libraries and parents, and to the YA sections of public libraries and possibly because the main character is a teenager. But be aware that the YA is something of a misnomer. They are thoroughly readable by adults so if you don’t mind that the main character is a teenage girl, you’ll enjoy the trio.
In fact it irks me that some publishers are now insisting that any genre book using younger characters must be YA, and sold as that, with the suggestion that there is something wrong with either adults reading YA, or children reading more adult books. Some years ago I wrote a book whose main character started at nine and ended as a grandmother. It was rejected by a publisher on those grounds. That it had to be YA because the main character was nine, but it was also inappropriate (they said) for YA because the character was in her sixties when the book ended. Luckily circumstances changed, I offered it where I had originally intended, it was accepted, and has been selling ever since. There seems to be an increasingly narrow classification of books for various age groups by publishers, and I feel it’s wrong. I often enjoy a good YA, despite being a lot older than that classification. Just as when from about twelve, I was reading adult books by authors such as Agatha Christie and Gerald Durrell. It isn’t about a fixed age, it’s about comprehension and enjoyment. And I don’t feel that readers, old or young, should be arbitrarily thrust into a narrower categorization and stranded there.