Archive | September, 2014

Almost a celebration —

30 Sep

This is the 99th posting to my blog. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve had some ups and some downs since this began, as we all do. Fortunately, I think my ups have been more than my downs, and at my age that’s really saying something! (And please don’t ask, I won’t tell!)

While this year has (at least) so far been productive and interesting, it hasn’t been quite all that I’d hoped for, but still, I have accomplished somethings, which is the point of this post. If you believe and have confidence in yourself, you can accomplish a lot, and make more of your dreams come true.

Last year, I published a novella that had been living in my computer since the fall of 1989. The Duke’s Christmas Gift 99-The  Duke coverbecame a Kindle book available to the world on October 1, 2013, and proceeded to imitate a sky-rocket. I’m still in awe of the trajectory of this little book of just under  20,000 words. Within a month of its debut, it was on the Amazon best-seller list for Historical/Regency/fiction. Whoa! It stayed there pretty much through January, rising up to number 19 at one point. Don’t get me wrong. I liked this story very much, once it hatched, but it didn’t fit any of the conventional categories or niches, while it collected innumerable rejection slips. So it hibernated. Furthermore, as a Christmas story, it has sold not less than 5 copies each month since last year—all through the summer months! And that’s not counting the ‘borrows’ made available through Amazon.

Collection-coverMost of my writing output has been in the Regency genre, where the author name on those books is Hetty St. James. Last year’s output included the Duke mentioned above, plus A Castle Cramlye Christmas and Pongo Guthridge Finds Love, which were then published as A Regency Christmas Collection, in two print versions, regular and large print. There was also a novelette (less than 10K words) titled The Elegant Runaways.                                                                          99 - Improbable Duke - cover

This year, I did another novelette, An Improbable Duke, which was a ‘prequel’ to a Regency mystery series I’ve been working on for too long, and haven’t quite managed to get any of the stories ready for publication. But I’m still working on them! Be sure I’ll keep you posted!

99 - Duo cover tilt However, I was still writing, and produced two longer stories (shorter than full-length book, but longer than novella) Bella’s Legacy and Francie’s Feast. These two are now also in print as The Regency Christmas Duo, and as  before, in both regular and large print.

Under my own name, however, came another previously un-published book – Cover MockupAn Intensive Care Guide for the Family. This was co-authored with a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic – J. Javier Provencio, M.D.  We worked on the book from the fall of 2006 until spring of 2008, but due to the constant upheaval in the publishing world around that time, this book, too, languished. It is now available as a Kindle e-book or a small paperback from Amazon or it may be ordered through your favorite local bookstore.

The point of this post is this: don’t ever give up, keep faith in yourself and your abilities, keep working, and keep your eyes and ears open for new possibilities in this ever-changing world of ours. Success can happen at any time for any reason, and although your definition of ‘success’ may differ from mine, you may still be happily surprised!

Thanks for reading and happy writing!  If you have comments or questions, please write to me at: bookmechanicATgmail.com

It’s never too late . . .

16 Sep

. . . to learn something new about yourself, right?

My mind has been spinning more than usual for the last few weeks. On August 6, I stumbled on an article about LeBron on ESPN.com.  This is hardly a rare occurrence, living as I do in Cleveland, but it was the content that really grabbed me. Here’s the link to the piece by Brian Windhorst.  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/11067098/lebron-james-greatest-weapon-brain​     I hope I won’t be shut down for quoting from this piece, as long as I provide the proper attribution, so y’all please keep your fingers crossed.

“‘When I was a kid my coaches started to say to me that I remembered things that happened in games from a few tournaments back — and that surprised them,” James says. “I started to realize how important that could be years later, probably when I was in high school. And then, eventually, I realized that it can get me into trouble.’

If there’s one thing that can be said about the study of the human brain — and especially the field of memory — it’s that even today, it’s notable less for what is known than for how much is not known. The workings of our head-sponges remain, for the most part, a mystery. But if there are areas of consensus in the field of neurology, one of them is that the notion of “photographic memory,” in which a person can take mental snapshots and recall every detail at a later time, has never been proved to exist.”

And these two isolated sentences from the same article:  (Those who have it)’They are as cursed by it as they are blessed by it. It’s hard, after all, to erase bad memories when you can’t erase any of them at all.’

 

I’ve always had a terrific memory – the exact address of every place I ever lived as a kid, plus phone numbers, etc. I’ve often joked about wishing I could erase some of the trivia in my brain to make room for important or up-to-date data. I had no idea that other people experienced the same thing! Duh. It was only about ten years ago that I learned there was a name for my uncanny memory of names, faces and numbers. I knew I’d been born with this ability: it was not because of anything I ever did to encourage it.

That magic name was Eidetic. Since then I’ve investigated it a bit, but then something else comes along and distracts me. One thing about mine (and it seems as though every person’s eidetic is at least somewhat different from everyone else’s eidetic) is that while I’m reading a manuscript or a book, and there are conflicting statements or data, I can fairly easily find both instances without searching the entire book. I’ll remember it being on the upper left page, or lower right page, for instance. Naturally, this doesn’t work so well with my own writing, but it’s dandy with everyone else’s! It makes me a great proof-reader, actually.

It also helped me find two plagiarists, as well. I knew I’d read that book previously, and sure enough over the next day, I was able to dig it out of my mental library and present the information to the original author. One of these was Phyllis Whitney, who sent me a very nice note of thanks.

Sandra Heath Wilson, my writer friend in England says:  “It’s like having a camera in your head, and from time to time the shutter clicks and something is imprinted there forever. Sometimes I’m aware of it happening, other times no. I get the feel, scent, moment-in-time sensation as well. I gets me in the pit of the stomach. Strange. I remember the written word as well, but it’s not consistent. Sometimes I do it constantly, and am accurate, other times I can’t think straight. The mood has a lot to do with it. If I’m  relaxed, I remember and ‘see’ the page. I’m always remembering things from a Regency book I used to have. I can see an illustration or paragraph, and know which book it was in, and where it was on the page. Sometimes I can even make out a remembered index, but I wouldn’t like my life to depend upon it.  Actually, I think this sort of thing is a prerequisite for writers. I goes with the sort of brain that can invent stories and get them down in the written word. Imagination, a wild memory for odd things, and the ability to conjure things in the mind. To ‘see’ your characters and move them around.”

I’ve finally figured out why I’ve always excelled at tests, as I have! It’s the memory, which allows me to be a whiz-bang at trivia games, and to almost always find things I’ve temporarily mis-placed. On the whole, I guess I’m glad to have it, but it can definitely present problems. I found this web-site to be a fabulous read on the topic. http://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-have-a-photographic-eidetic-memory   I can agree with each of these folks. Not that mine is just like any of theirs, but for sure, I have the embedded GPS capability, and the ‘hard-headed know-it-all’ part, as well. It IS hard to maintain relationships, because the other person NEVER understands!

Strange, eh? So, what’s your story?

I confess . I am a . . .

2 Sep

I LOVE research. There. I said it and I’m glad! I am a researchaholic, big-time. I’ve always loved libraries and books and history, and when they all come together – well!

At some point in the 1970s, I fell in love with the Plantagenet era in England. You know, the one that ended sadly with the death of Richard III at Bosworth. The next dynasty was Tudor. But the Plantagenets were a long-lived dynasty having been created by the Treaty of Winchester in 1154 that ended twenty years of civil war. Henry II was the first of these kings and their dynasty stretched  over 331 years, containing four distinct royal houses: Angevins, Plantagenet, Lancaster and York.

I read everything available to me at that time (this was long before computers and digitization, I would remind you) and became totally enraptured by the wife of Henry V – Catherine of Valois, the ruling family of France. It was expedient for him to marry her, as he considered himself the conqueror of France (Agincourt 1415) and thus it’s King as well as England’s. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be happy with that, he had to keep fighting, and consequently lost his life at an early age (1422), leaving a very young widow and an infant son.

It seemed to me that Catherine was virtually ignored by everyone. She was accorded all the status of a footnote, which really bugged me. After all, she was the daughter of a King, the wife of a King, and the mother of a King. How could this be?

Well, of course, her father, Charles VI, was known as the Mad King, but if you read his backstory, it seems reasonable to think he was derailed by the terribly tragic fire, accidental in nature, but which killed most of his friends. He did have periods of lucidity afterwards, but they alternated all too often with periods of (perhaps) insanity. But then, her mother was no prize, either. Isabeau of Bavaria was reported to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and she expected to be treated as such. It didn’t always work out that way, however, and while she had a bunch of children, she would never be considered as acting ‘maternal’ towards any of them, especially the later ones, of which Catherine was the next to last.

And then, there is Catherine’s son Henry VI, who was also known to have periods of insanity. But then, how many 9-year-olds could handle being forced to watch Joan of Arc being burned at the stake? Surely, that would be enough to hinder most people, especially a sensitive young boy. Of course, by that time, young Henry had been in the care of his uncles for seven years. They had forcibly removed him from his mother, saying a mere woman was not capable of raising a king. Of course.

So, I decided to write a book about Catherine, who did eventually find happiness with Owen Tudor, a Welsh archer in the train of Henry V. (Or so I firmly believe.) But a funny thing happened on the way to the writing. I fell in love with theater, and so all my research went into a one-woman play. It’s never been produced, but it came close once. The timing was just not right, and truth be told, I’ve not really pushed it anywhere, either. I still have it, though, and every now and then I go back to it and am amazed by the depth of the research. It covers her life from the age of six (1401) to her death in 1437.

One of the books I read mentioned her will as being part of a famous collection of ancient manuscripts. I had no idea! It never dawned on me that such things had ever been collected. But, yes they were. This particular volume was part of the Cotton Manuscripts. You can find out more about them here:  http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/manuscripts/cottonmss/cottonmss.html

What I found most interesting was his way of cataloguing these treasures: he named his volumes after people from history. The volume I wanted especially was the Cleopatra volume.

To be sure, this was all most interesting, but then – THEN!!! I discovered that our library in Cleveland (one of the best in the world, actually, a well-kept secret, apparently) had a copy of the volume that included her will! It was listed here: http://www.cpl.org/TheLibrary/SubjectsCollections/SpecialCollections.aspx

Needless to say, I promptly took myself downtown to the main branch where this collection is housed. What a wonderful voyage of discovery that proved to be! Wow. It was in the John White Collection, located on the third floor. One has to knock on the locked door for admittance, and surrender your driver’s license along with the library card and once in, they give you a pair of inexpensive white gloves to wear while touching ANYthing in there. (I admit that I’ve not been there in several years, and the rules may be different now. Or not.)

If you see a book on the shelf that you want to investigate, you do NOT touch it. Not even with gloved hands. No! You find a page and show him or her the book, and they will remove it from the shelf and bring it to your table. You’re allowed to turn the pages, but not lift it or do anything else with it. Don’t even ask to photocopy anything. Not usually possible, but on rare occasions, an exception may be made, depending on the volume you wished to have copied. For a charge, they used to do microfilming, as well. But it was not as immediate as a photocopy.

If the book you want is NOT on display but is listed as being part of the collection, you fill out a request slip and give it to the page, then go back to your chair and wait. Eventually, it’ll get to you. Same rules as before, and it’s firmly requested that no tears (the watery kind) are accidentally allowed to splat on a page.

What I wanted to see was Catherine’s will, and so I did. It ranks as one of the highlights of my life. But almost as important to me, THIS particular volume had been in the personal collection of the Prince Regent, (who later became King George IV) and he had actually affixed his signature and other important information on the inside front page! With tissue firmly clenched in my left hand (to catch any stray tears) I gently ran my gloved, right index finger over his sprawling signature.  WOW. What a major thrill. I’ll never – EVER – forget it, to be sure.

Books are wonderful, aren’t they? I couldn’t live without them. I wouldn’t even want to.