Kate Allan

The online diary of Kate Allan, author

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Jolly cold and a college class

This week it's been unusually cold - for England in November: hats-and-gloves-and-your-warmest-coat-time. Something about the cold makes me simply want to stay indoors and I ended up watching last weekend 100-odd minutes - i.e. the first DVD of the first series of the 1970s TV period drama series The Onedin Line. History, drama, adventure - just my sort of thing - but fatal to wip-progress.

I did venture out into the dark and freezing mist earlier this week to give my 'six senses of writing' workshop to a class of creative writing students at Oaklands College. It went well and I even plucked up enough courage to give them all a postcard featuring the cover of The Lady Soldier. 'Ah, marketing!' one of the students said perceptively. Of course, it's marketing. If I knew I could sell 5-10 copies of a book at an evening event, I'd happily do one every week. But you don't. You sell one or two if you're lucky, so I can only do things if they are extremely local and of interest to me in some other way. I quite enjoy sharing what I've learned about fiction writing with others, and seeing the students get something out of it is the reward. Hence I think, unless I'm forgetting one, I've done five practical writing workshops with creative writing classes and writers circles this year.

But it would still be nice to sell a few more books along the way! If an author shares their learnings with you in a class or workshop, do say 'thank you' by buying their book! It will mean a lot to the author. There is a good chance that the author is giving their time and expertise for very little payment, perhaps for travel expenses only, or even completely for free.

I've also done at least five 'author talks' at various events from small groups to festivals and conferences this year, but these seem to do better vis-a-vis book sales, plus there's a chance of actually being properly paid.

I'm going to try and do better with the wip this weekend. But I'll hopefully get a chance to watch some more of The Onedin Line too. ;)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Websites, blogs, wips

It's 100 years since the Scarlet Pimpernel was published, a fact I was unaware of before going over to UK Historical Romance blog today. Now I am itching to put on a episode from the Richard E Grant TV series! However, I must do some work on the wip tonight. I've played in my mind a addition to the scene I'm currently working on, but not written a word yet, so it would be good to get that down. If I do then I shall call it a day work-wise and watch a film later from my TBW* pile. It's the first Saturday night at home I've had for ages, and it's great to think I have a whole evening of writing / film watching potentially ahead of me, and I don't have to get up early for work tomorrow morning!

Today has been entirely taken up with work on a forthcoming website for the authors of the Regency / Georgian chapter of the RNA - the RNA's newest chapter, having been ratified by the RNA committee only this week.

* To-be-watched

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

UK Historical Romance

Historical romance in the UK is an underrated and underrepresented genre. Most people think it died out with Jean Plaidy. But this does not stop a handful of publishers continuing to publish it successfully and fool-authors like me from persisting with our ambition to write it. In order that we can shout a little louder, I'm really lucky to be involved in a clubbing together of some of the UK's leading historical romance authors for a group blog! Oh, this is going to be so much fun. :)

Please check it out and tell everyone you know!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mutton pie

A small bit of progress made on the wip today except what with radicially altering the start of the story I think I've cut as many words as I've written - about 300 each way. Does not sound much but it's stuff to a quality I'm happy with and I've got to listen to the Kaiser Chiefs album several times while I'm working. What I do have now is chapter one in reasonable enough shape for me to leave it for now and move on and write the key new scenes I need for chapter two.

No ham sandwich in the wip so far, but I did get in a reference to a mutton pie. It came to me that it would be perfect for one of my characters to have a fondness and a half for fast-food (Regency-style of course).

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The original ham-sandwich

I've been reading Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor which was compiled from a series of articles written by the journalist in the 1840s mostly for the Morning Chronicle newspaper. Although it's slightly after the Regency period, there is a wealth of information useful for anyone writing Regency London and Mayhew interviews many people and comments on how, for example, street trades have changed in recent past.

For example, the vending of ham-sandwiches, which I am guessing, if Mayhew is correct, commenced in the 1830s:

The ham-sandwich-seller carries his sandwiches on a tray or flat basket, covered with a clean white cloth; he also wears a white apron, and white sleeves. His usual stand is at the doors of the theatres.
The trade was unknown until eleven years ago, when a man who had been unsuccessful in keeping a coffee-shop in Westminster, found it necessary to look out for some mode of living,and he hit upon the plan of vending sand-wiches, precisely in the present style, at the theatre doors. The attempt was successful; the man soon took 10s. a night, half of which was profit. He "attended" both the great theatres,and was "doing well;" but at five or six weeks' end, competitors appeared in the field, and in-creased rapidly, and so his sale was affected, people being regardless of his urging that he "was the original ham-sandwich."

Henry Mayhew,
London Labour and the London Poor

Monday, November 07, 2005

New directions

New direction 1: I've done it. I've taken the plunge and kicked off the Marketing for Authors blog I've been thinking about for while.

New direction 2: My word count has not risen on the wip in recent days because I've started 'c version' of the manuscript. So 'b version' has been suspended at circa 10,000 words and I'm making a major plot change at the beginning which means that I need a new scene in chapter two (which I've started) to do a bit of cutting (which I mostly did yesterday). Most importantly I think I really am going to have to write the plot down somewhere. I've bolded that so it'll guilt me into doing it. I dislike plotting because I find it very hard to do but avoidance won't work forever. A good story needs a good plot.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Something old, something new

The old: Well, yesterday didn't go quite to plan. On arrival at the British Museum we found that the Forgotten Persians were certainly not all that forgotten and the exhibition was fully booked, so we've got tickets to go this coming Friday evening instead.

The new (1): The Lady Soldier's been out now for 5 months and the challenge is hitting of it not being 'new' anymore. Your novel comes out and a few people get excited about it. And then it's old news. However, I'm sure that there are mothers and aunts out there who would love a copy of The Lady Soldier for Christmas. But how to get the word out? One thing I decided to try is Google Adwords, so I've set up some Adwords advertising for The Lady Soldier. I'm trying a couple of small campaigns and I'll report back on whether they are working in a couple of weeks time.

The new (2): The Lady Soldier is available also now in New Zealand.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Vision of Britain Through Time

While trying to find various maps of the western environs of London to get my bearings in the scene I'm writing in my wip I came across this super-looking resource: a Vision of Britain Through Time.

Typing in my home postcode I found out immediately that 8,773 people lived in St Albans in 1801. Now it's 128,000.

As well as historical census information, there are maps and historical descriptions.

Unfortunately I'm off to London shortly to visit the Persian exhbition at the British Museum so I'll have to play with this website more tomorrow...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Diamonds and three things

I love the way that my google adverts come up with lots of diamond merchants after my blog post yesterday. Mmmmmm, tempting but authors don't earn enough.

Wenlock tagged me with this meme:

Three screen names that you've had: kateallan, katealpha, katea
Three things you like about yourself: my optimism, my sense of fun, my willingness to take risks
Three things you don't like about yourself: my ability to procrastinate, my untidiness, when I come over shy for seemingly no reason

Three parts of your heritage: Polish, Irish and lowland Scots
Three things that scare you: conflict, sharing my emotions, hidden toxic chemicals in everyday products
Three of your everyday essentials: coffee, wine, sugar

Three things you are wearing right now: jeans, skate shoes, cashmere jumper
Three of your favorite songs: Grace (Jeff Buckley); Black Angel's Death Song (Velvet Underground); Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (R Vaughan-Williams)
Three things you want in a relationship: honesty, trust and love

Two truths and a lie: I have studied Middle English, Medieval Latin and Sanskrit
Three things you can't live without: friends, family and my imagination
Three places you want to go on vacation: Syria, Black Sea and Alaska
Three things you just can't do: stop worrying, drink milk, take politicians seriously

Three kids names: Anthony, Jamie, Anatasia
Three things you want to do before you die: visit Krak des Chevaliers, have a book on a bestseller list, make a souffle
Three celeb crushes: Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street circa 1979, Simon Green and Goldie from Blue Peter circa 1985, Lee Mavers from The La's circa 1990 (I can go on, but I am limited to three ;) )
Three of your favorite musicians: Billy Joel, Jeff Buckley, Frank Sinatra

Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeal to you: intelligence, masculine decisiveness, masculine indecisiveness
Three of your favorite hobbies: writing stories, exploring random old places, watching films

Three things you really want to do badly right now: finish wip, get a agent, get a great publishing contract
Three careers you're considering/you've considered: novelist; architect, art dealer
Three ways that you are stereotypically a boy: I know that Echo Beach was by Martha and Muffins, I wish housework didn't exist, I have a short attention span ;)
Three ways that you are stereotypically a girl: I don't understand all the wires coming out the back of the TV/DVD/those other boxes that do stuff, I can't leave the house without mascara, I spend too much on shoes
Three people that I would like to see post this meme: Olga, Emma and K8.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Gilbert Collection

I can tell I'm feeling better, I'm getting excited by some fabulous snuffboxes I just found online:

"The cartouche-shaped box is made from mother-of-pearl plaques mounted in a cage of gold chased in three colours. This is decorated with flowers and scrolls, set with circular cut diamonds, and encrusted with flowers and foliage of citrine, amethyst and coloured or foiled quartz. The rim of the cover is set with a profusion of diamonds, some foiled, including three large cushion-shaped diamonds and one pear-shaped diamond over a pink foil ground and ruby flowers." Description of a snuffbox commissioned by Frederick II, the Great of Prussia. Made in Berlin c 1765.

The Gilbert Collection is a collection of English silver, Italian mosaics, gold boxes, portrait miniatures and Roman enamel mosaics, by the late Sir Arthur Gilbert. It's now housed on display in Somerset House in London. I came across it when searching online for information on portrait enamel painters. Gilbert procured a number of fine portrait miniatures, including by Henry Bone (1755-1834), one of England's leading miniature portrait enamellers of the early 19th century:

George IV by Henry Bone
George Washington by Henry Bone

Why the interest in portrait enamellers? Ah, that's because I have a character in the wip* who is one. It's an occupation where the son of the cabinet-maker (such as Henry Bone) could rise to the wealth and status of gentleman.

* work-in-progress