Introducing Elsa Simonetti.

I know, this is Disney World, not Disneyland Paris. But it’s my favourite Disney picture!

I’ve been quiet for a while, largely due to the uncertainties of lockdown, and the problems of having a house full of teenagers most of the time! Now they are back to school and college I’m working hard again.

I’ve got a new Disneyland Paris-set novella entitled Mistletoe and the Mouse coming out soon (date t.b.c. – Coronovirus has held up publication) and a new persona! My pen name is “Elsa Simonetti”, as I wanted to keep these new, shorter and sweeter romances distinct from my other novels. “Simonetti” was my grandmother’s maiden name – I think it’s so pretty – and I chose Elsa as it’s another possible variant of Elizabeth.

Here is a sneak preview of “Mistletoe and the Mouse”:

Can a magical Christmas melt a frozen heart?

Join Belle and James as they visit Mickey Mouse for a sparkling holiday season at Disneyland Paris.

Belle has been numb since her mother died, and she can’t face Christmas at home without her. Instead she books a surprise holiday to her “happy place” – the Magic Kingdom. But her boyfriend James has problems of his own. He doesn’t “do Disney” and what will his mother think of him missing their family Christmas to go to Disneyland with Belle?

A festive romance with a sprinkling of pixie dust.

This IS Paris.

Coronavirus

I hadn’t anticipated a global pandemic. Who did?

Well, actually, I keep reminding myself that at the end of last summer, in a moment of idleness, probably lazing in a deckchair with a glass of Pimms or something like that, I said to my husband, “It’s been such a beautiful summer. This must have been what that last hot summer before the First World War felt like.” However, I didn’t add “I hope that we’re not heading for a major catastrophe like a global pandemic virus”, shortly afterwards, so I didn’t actually predict it – you can’t blame me for Coronavirus. Not this time, anyway.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

This week has been busy, and when I haven’t been “doomsurfing” (it’s a great term, but a horrible thing to find yourself doing, and I’ve been doing it far too much) I’ve been running around trying to work out what to do if X happens or when Y occurs. So I haven’t got anything interesting and uplifting to share, only a growing sense of dread. In particular, the dread of two teenage children cooped up at home for weeks and having to make them do schoolwork!

But on a positive note, our local councillor is collecting books to distribute to the self-isolating. I’ve included one of mine. It also features the end of a long, hot summer, and a subsequent disaster, followed closely by a happy ending. I wonder where it will end up?

Knowing my luck, probably back with me when I have to start self-isolating myself!

Make do and mend …

This post was inspired by Katey Lovell’s novel “Make do and mend a broken heart” which you can find here.

My heart isn’t broken but I am, like the heroine of Katey’s novel, redecorating. Leanne has the whole house to renovate, thankfully my husband and I have only got two rooms to tackle. We’re moving the books and my desk downstairs into the front room so that the bedroom which currently serves as my (very cluttered) study can become a proper spare bedroom again.

My study before renovations begin. A mess, as usual.

I began to consider what I could do to make my renovations more sustainable (and less expensive) and I’m starting with the bay window. It’s always been a bit cold and draughty, so I thought maybe new thermal curtains would help. Then I looked again at the old ones. Other than being a bit faded in the centre, there’s nothing wrong with them – they were expensive and I love the pattern. So I took them down, cut off the most faded parts and turned them round so that the faded parts were no longer in the middle but at the edges and therefore not so visible. I also lengthened them so that they reach right to the bottom of the window (OK, my initial measurements ten years ago were a bit off …) and cover the frame completely at the top. I did this using my nearly-one-hundred year old Singer sewing machine, which I love. I’ll admit, I ordered some new thermal linings for them, but that’s still cheaper and less wasteful than buying entirely new curtains. Or a new sewing machine!

I love my sewing machine. It’s beautiful and it smells good too.

Then I cleaned them. I decided against sending them to the dry cleaners and simply hung them over the washing line for a bit and beat them with the old fashioned carpet beater to remove the dust. I don’t know whether it helped, but I enjoyed the whole beating process!

I also love my carpet beater. Like the sewing machine, it’s quite beautiful in its own right.

So that’s part one complete. Curtains are better than ever, and I even found some of the left over fabric with which I can cover the noticeboard when I move that downstairs. Result!

I just hope that the renovation of my two rooms is as successful and as thrifty as Leanne’s. (I don’t think that’s too much of a spoiler!)

Planning a new novel

I’m rather pleased with my latest planning tool. I tried the whole “post it notes on noticeboard” planning technique, but the post it notes kept falling off and then I didn’t know what should happen next because all my scenes were scattered on the floor. I tried writing in little notebooks, but you can’t move the events if you change your mind about what order they should happen in. That occurs quite a lot when I plan something.

My little book of cards.

Then my daughter came home from school with a bunch of tiny revision cards held together on a book ring, and I knew I had found my perfect planning tool. I couldn’t find one in the local WH Smith’s, and my daughter actually wanted to use hers for revising, so I made one of my own. This had the additional benefit of having pages made out of fancy paper as well as plain paper which pleased me immensely.

Plotting

I can then take the book apart and write a plot point on each card (please note, this is not actually my next novel!) Then I spread them out in order all over the table, so I can see at a glance how the plot is going to work.

After that, I clip them back into the book ring, so I can work from a small notebook when I can’t spread all the cards out all over the desk. It even fits into my handbag, unlike my big planning notebooks. Oh, and I put my name on it in sparkly pink stickers (not my usual choice, admittedly …)

But the good thing is that the order isn’t set in stone, and so if I change my mind, or want to add another incident to the plot (or remove one) or simply change the order, then I unclip all the cards, re-organise the plot and put them back together again.

Re-organised cards.

I’m thinking of taking commissions, if anyone’s planning a novel?

What makes an author “great”?

I came across a couple of interesting lists when I was researching for last week’s book club with Bob Fischer on BBC Radio Tees. I was talking about Enid Blyton, so I wanted to find out who the most successful authors of the twentieth century were, knowing how phenomenal Blyton’s sales had been (and still are). So, I looked at various lists which provided different definitions of success. Needless to say, on most of them Martin Amis featured heavily and Blyton did not!

The most interesting one (on Wikipedia, so not necessarily verified – this isn’t academic research, just interest!) was a list of the bestselling British authors of all time. Shakespeare was at the top of the list, but I decided to discount him as he’s not a novelist, and other classics (such as Dickens, Eliot and Austen) are not included because they don’t have accurate figures prior to the twentieth century, which makes it a bit unfair to add Shakespeare.

So, the five bestselling British novelists with their very broad estimated sales figures, according to Wikipedia are:

  1. Agatha Christie (between 2 and 4 BILLION books)
  2. Barbara Cartland (between 500 million and 1 billion sold)
  3. Enid Blyton (approx. 600 million books)
  4. JK Rowling (approx. 500 million books – but the list may not be up to date)
  5. Jackie Collins (between 250-400 million books).

Do you notice something quite surprising here? Yes. All women. Every single one of the top five selling British novelists is a woman. And they are all writing either genre or children’s fiction, popular stories with a huge and appreciative audience. It appears, however that neither popularity nor sales count for much when it comes to legacy.

I then searched for “great” novelists of the 20th century (because all these writers above are broadly 20th century and the older classics are excluded from the list I thought this was a fairer – and more interesting – comparison).  Google provided me with the following top five (I don’t know how their list was compiled, so I’m not claiming this is a scientific comparison):

  1. Virginia Woolf
  2. George Orwell
  3. H.G. Wells
  4. E.M. Forster
  5. Anthony Burgess

Only one of them is a woman, and not one of them is a bestseller. Out of the complete lists of twenty authors, only one person makes it onto both lists, and that’s Agatha Christie. If you look at the overall figures for the top 20 in each category, 10 of the 20 bestsellers are women but only 3 of the 20 “greats” are women. Oddly enough, I suspect that if I included earlier ‘great’ novelists, the list would look entirely different, with Austen, Eliot and the Brontes swinging the balance back in favour of a more equal balance between male and female writers.

There’s a lot of snobbery about books, about those who write them and those who read them, and about how some writing is “better” than others. However, the facts here speak for themselves. Women genre fiction writers were dominating their (often male) literary counterparts in the twentieth century when it came to the number of people who were reading and presumably enjoying their books. I think I can quite confidently state that Enid Blyton has made more readers happy than Martin Amis has!

Images by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay